SolarPower Europe’s “EU Solar Jobs Report 2022” reveals that the solar sector employed 466,000 people in the European Union in 2021, an annual increase of over 30%, up from 358,000 in 2020.
The EU’s solar market will break another installation record this year. SolarPower Europe’s latest forecast estimates a range of 34 to 40 GW of newly installed capacity in 2022, translating into a 42% year-on-year growth. Demand for solar power systems is much higher than actual installations testify, as citizens and businesses are desperately looking for rapid and tailored protection against skyrocketing power and gas prices.
The 2022 edition of the report shows that in 2021, the solar sector employed 466,000 full time employees (FTEs) in the EU, 108,000 more than in 2020. While 44% of the total, 205,000 FTEs, were employed directly in the solar sector, a slightly higher share were indirect jobs – 56%, with 261,000 FTEs covering jobs in process materials and logistics industries.
The major share of jobs provided by the solar industry relate to the installation phase. Direct and indirect jobs linked to solar deployment amounted to 367,000 FTEs, equalling 79% of total jobs in 2021. Solar manufacturing contributed 9%, and so did O&M, while decommissioning and recycling jobs have remained a minor source of employment, with a 3% share. This is a very similar picture to 2021, which means growth has been consistent across the solar value chain.
As regards employment, new solar power generation capacities are exceptionally valuable as solar is the most job-intensive among low carbon and renewable energy technologies, in particular rooftop solar, which creates 5-7 times more construction jobs than any new centralised power plants.
Around 44,000 solar jobs were in the high-value strategic sector of solar PV manufacturing in 2021, where inverter production provided the bulk, with 31,000 FTEs and around 70% market share. New jobs were also created in the other segments of EU solar manufacturing, where the nascent production capacities in the ingot/wafer segment and solar cell segment only offered under 1,000 jobs combined at that time.
The SolarPower Europe forecast shows solar jobs on a steady rise in 2022 too, with an anticipated 14% annual growth to about 530,000 FTEs under the Medium Scenario, if 34 GW of capacity is added. However, if the 40 GW High Scenario becomes a reality, jobs will increase by 30% to 606,000.
The report provides a five-year outlook for solar job creation in the EU, based on the scenarios developed by SolarPower Europe’s “Global Market Outlook 2022-2026” published in May. According to the Medium Scenario, further growth could lead to 764,000 jobs in 2026, representing a 64% growth compared to 2021 levels.
But SolarPower’s modelling indicates that reaching the 2030 solar target of 750 GWDC of the European Commission’s REPowerEU package will result in the creation of over 1 million direct and indirect jobs in the EU solar industry in that year, more than doubling the employment in the sector compared to 2021.
While the REPowerEU targets are going in the right direction, the ambition remains 26% lower than Solar Power Europe’s Accelerated High Scenario, which is calling for 1 TW of solar power generation capacity by 2030 to keep the 1.5°C Paris Climate Agreement target alive. If the EU installs 1 TW of solar by 2030, jobs in the sector would reach almost 1.5 million FTEs in the same year, which is 45% higher than in the REPowerEU scenario.
For solar to contribute its share to the EU Climate Targets and Energy Independence, it is of the utmost importance to launch accessible training programmes that are assessed and monitored in all member states, while the EU should ensure that the new Solar Skills Partnership targets the whole workforce. In this context, on 1 December 2022, SolarPower Europe will launch its #SolarWorks Jobs online employment platform during the first edition of an annual #SolarWorks online job fair, a project to connect job seekers and foster solar education.