Solar industry braced for 12,500 UK job losses – despite some sunny spots in Scotland

Scottish Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse opening Scotland's biggest solar farm recent at Errol. Photograph Phil Hannah
Scottish Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse opening Scotland’s biggest solar farm recently at Errol, Perthshire. Photograph Phil Hannah

One third of solar jobs have been lost in the past year and a further 30% of solar businesses expect to cut staff in the next 12 months, according to a detailed new analysis published by the Solar Trade Association and management consultants PwC.

The 238 solar industry firms surveyed said they collectively employed 3,665 people now compared to 5,362 a year ago – a fall of 32%, while 4 in 10 firms are being forced to either exit the solar market entirely or diversify into other markets to keep their heads above water.

Extrapolating the survey findings across the UK solar industry, the figure for job losses over the past year could exceed 12,500 – around one third of previous total employment in the solar industry, the Solar Trade Association found.

Solar deployment this year is expected to fall from an annual average of 1GW in the past five years, to less than 300-MW this year – a 75% drop.

However, new moves by the Scottish Government to improve new-build standards as part of the emerging new Scottish Energy Strategy are creating opportunities and it appears that the new London mayor may also move to support solar deployment across the city.

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The Solar Trade Association has long been concerned by the lack of an industrial strategy for the UK solar industry despite solar increasingly dominating global energy investments.

The UK Government is allocating only 1% of new renewable energy project expenditure to solar power under the Feed-in Tariff.

A Solar Trade Association spokesman said: The survey shows very regrettable damage to the fabric of the British solar industry and the need for prompt Government action. Shockingly, since we undertook the survey, business investors in solar are set to be hit with a six- to eight-fold rise in business rates.

“We urge the new Energy Ministers, rather than increase the tax burden of going solar, please reward investment with sensible solar tax breaks consistent with action on climate change. International experience of tax breaks is solid, and the industry is clearly behind this. 

John Dashwood, PwC Head of Renewables, added: “These survey results show there will be a structural shift in the market and solar players need to consider alternative products, services and markets. Our report highlights the kind of innovation that can secure a positive future for solar energy in the UK. 

“The solar industry undoubtedly faces some serious challenges, but it has already proved resilient and adaptable.”

The SNP condemned the UK Government’s ‘relentless and sustained assault’ on the renewable energy industry after it emerged that more than 12,000 jobs in the solar power industry have been lost in the last year. 

This follows on from a report by Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee which found that 5,400 jobs in Scotland are risk because of the UK Government’s assault on the onshore wind-ustry.

Last month – homes fitted with solar hot water panels, there was enough sunshine to generate 100% of an average household’s hot water needs in Aberdeen and Dundee, 98% in Inverness, 97% in Edinburgh, and 94% in Glasgow.

SNP MSP John Mason – who is Deputy Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Economy & Jobs and Committee – said: “This is just the latest example of how the Tory government’s relentless and sustained assault on the renewable energy industry is costing jobs and economic growth – and risking holding back Scotland’s world-leading ambitions for a low-carbon economy.”

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