FiT to work: over 17,000 solar jobs could be created in 2011

Recent research conducted by the Solar Power Portal, on behalf of the REA Solar Power Group, shows that the introduction of the feed-in tariff has significantly increased the amount of ‘green’ jobs in the UK.

The survey, which reached out to 1,418 Renewable Energy Assurance Limited (REAL) accredited solar installers, asked how many full-time equivalents were employed in 2009 (pre tariff), in 2010 (post tariff) and were planned to be employed in 2011 (assuming tariffs were untouched). Out of the 1,418 contacted, 543 companies provided valuable information. Some of the results are yet to be recorded.

According to the preliminary figures, the job figure for full time equivalents (FTI) in the solar installer sector in 2009 was 1,053. In 2010, post feed-in tariff, this figure jumped to 3,481, recording a 230% increase year-on-year. Assuming the tariff is not cut, the numbers for 2011 are expected to reach somewhere in the region on 6,600, which would be an 89% increase year-on-year.

If we use the 38% response rate to infer what the remaining 62% would have answered, we could be looking at approximately 2,770 jobs in 2009, 9,160 in 2010 and almost 17,500 in 2011.

Out of the 543 respondents, 342 admitted to having no solar employees pre feed-in tariff, suggesting that this number of companies were actually created as a direct result of the FiT.

The results of the survey demonstrate how successful the FiT has been in promoting new jobs in the UK, as well as providing thousands of future positions providing the tariff levels remain untouched.

The research did not include figures for large-scale installers, which means that the recruitment figures could be even higher, again on the condition that the utility FiT is left uncut. The same applies for other ‘green’ jobs sectors, which are also not included in these numbers, such as manufacturing, retail, financial, legal, academic and certificatory. Just a handful of examples in 2010 include the 50 UK jobs created by the opening of the North Wales university solar development department, the numerous design, engineering and construction positions created by German developers moving in the UK market and the increase of Sharp’s Wrexham-based plant’s capacity by 100%, which is pushing for the “local production for local consumption” approach.

Further, more in-depth analysis of the recorded data is expected in the coming weeks; yet thus far, the preliminary figures outline a healthy beginning to the UK solar jobs market.