Policymakers are being called on to create certainty in the solar industry after a new report forecast a significant drop in the number of jobs in the UK market.

Research published by consultancy EY for trade body SolarPower Europe claims the number of UK full time equivalent jobs per year in solar will drop to 18,999 in 2020, marking a sizeable reduction from the 35,049 recorded in 2014.

While solar employment has grown hugely since 2008, when just 224 were recorded, the industry has relied heavily on government policy to affect change. The EY report claims an important factor in UK growth was the feed-in tariff, which was introduced in April 2010 and reportedly led to 869MW installed capacity in 2011, which was 13 times higher than the previous year.

Following announcements of proposed cuts to government subsidy and in place of any announcements on future support, the UK is expected to experience significant falls in employment while other European markets, such as Germany, Spain and France, are all expected to see a rise in job creation, assuming measures are taken to ensure growth.

James Watson, chief executive of SolarPower Europe, said: “For Europe to reach the European Commission’s ambition to be the number one in renewables we need to accelerate the deployment of solar considerably in the coming years. This will boost employment and wealth generation far beyond the forecasts in this study.

“The last study on jobs commissioned by SolarPower Europe in 2011 showed employment at more than 250,000 jobs at that time. The decrease since then has been accelerated through policy changes introduced in Europe during this period.”

The report also examined the impact of European trade and regulatory policies on jobs, in particular the duties and minimum import price arrangement currently in place on Chinese products.

It assessed the likely impact should the MIP be allowed to expire at the end of 2015. The European Commission is currently considering whether or not to instigate an expiry review, which would mean the MIP stays in place for at least another 15 months.

Based on modelling of Germany and Italy, and the likely decrease in system costs that would result from the removal of the MIP, the report claims removing the MIP would have a positive employment effect in the value chain resulting from higher demand, with downstream employment to be the main beneficiary.

“These findings show that Europe can clearly benefit from an end to the trade measures on modules and cells,” said SolarPower Europe CEO James Watson. “This would be good for the entire European solar value chain, creating more jobs and boosting the economy to support Europe in reaching its ambitious climate objectives, including to be the number one in renewables.”

Watson added that the findings underlined the need for policymakers in Europe to take action more generally on the various regulatory, fiscal and market barriers preventing solar from realising its potential.

“To fully realise the great potential of solar in Europe, we need policy makers to remove all barriers for installers and investors – including regulatory uncertainty, unjustified taxes and an improvement to the current electricity market design.”