According to the latest REAL Assurance data an estimated 25,000 UK jobs have been created as a direct result of the feed-in tariff (FiT). Despite already exceeding all expectations, the Renewable Energy Association (REA) believes even this huge figure is likely to be underestimated as the REAL team only deals with companies working on small-scale installations.

In the solar industry alone there are currently 4,000 companies registered with REAL in the UK with approximately 100 new members signing up each month. Each one of these companies has from 1-2,500 employees, showing the sheer dominance the solar sector has in the UK. At this growth rate the REA estimates that solar jobs will exceed 7,000 by April 2012, with more jobs created providing the industry remains supported.

Solar Trade Association (STA) Director Stuart Pocock said, “80% of the jobs in solar are in installations and this is born out by these figures. Solar modules and components are typically 50% of the cost of an installation. The other 50% is labour involved in each installation. This labour requirement has helped create thousands of new companies and employees – who are all paying tax to HM Treasury and keeping people off welfare in these harsh economic times.”

Last spring the REA advised the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to reduce all the solar FiT rates by 25% in order to extend the budget envelope, as there was growing concern that the sharp digression in the costs of solar components would create an unsustainable level of return for investors. Unfortunately, the residential FiT was left unchanged and the REA and STA are now predicting 500MW of installed solar capacity by April 2012 –  which is almost five times greater than DECC’s original impact assessment of deployment under the FiT.

Stuart Pocock explains: “Amidst the economic gloom, this is good news.  Solar delivers rapid job creation while greening UK homes and offices, and reduces energy bills for home and business owners.  A bit more Government ambition on solar would mean we could sustain these jobs and secure big new solar manufacturing opportunities in the UK, with huge export potential.”

Research by Ernst and Young estimates non-domestic solar will reach competitiveness with standard grid electricity by 2017.  The analysis was carried out before major recent rises in energy bills suggesting competitiveness is likely to be reached earlier.  The REA and STA want to see DECC establish a clear pathway to ‘grid parity’ with a stable framework for investment.

“Not only can this technology deliver the jobs and green homes we need today, but costs are falling faster than any other energy generation source in the world.  So by investing in solar jobs and growth today, we can look forward to a subsidy-free solar revolution tomorrow, driven by UK companies.  It's win-win-win,” Pocock concluded.