Image credit: Solarcentury
It seems like the UK solar industry is on fire right now. No sooner was the renewables feed-in tariff approved, than solar installers were inundated with inquiries from would-be customers, and we've even seen plans announced for the country's first utility-scale solar plants. Now there's further evidence of success, with the country's leading solar installer network announcing it has nearly doubled its employee numbers since January. But it's not just the influx of Government money that is driving this growth. While many will focus purely on the huge cash injection that the feed-in tariff represents, that would be an over simplification. The growth in jobs is attributable as much to the nature of the Government scheme as it is the size—offering predictable, guaranteed long-term support for the industry, rather than the more sporadic offers of short-term grants and tax breaks that have been so common across the Globe. It's a lesson that governments everywhere would do well to heed, if they want to grow their own industries.
Solarcentury, the country's leading solar company, underlined this fact with an announcement that its installer network had added over 150 jobs - up from 200 in January to 350 - as a result of this long-term commitment from the government:
"The vast bulk of the solar PV employment created in the regions is in skilled and semi skilled roofing and electrical jobs. This reflects the employment rich nature of the PV sector in terms of domestic jobs created per MW installed and the speed with which the technology can be rolled out quickly in local communities.
Seb Berry Head of Public Affairs for Solarcentury said: "These very encouraging job numbers show that the new feed-in tariff is already delivering rapid growth in new solar PV jobs in the UK. The stability and certainty provided by the feed-in tariff means that UK PV companies can plan with confidence, invest for the future and take on many more staff as the market continues to grow in a sustained way. This is exactly what we said an effective feed-in tariff could deliver. It contrasts so very positively with the industry's stop start problems of the recent past. We are optimistic about the sector's future and its role in creating skilled employment.""
Of course there are those who argue that solar feed-in tariffs are a rip off, especially in cloudy England. So with all this projected growth, the industry would do well to demonstrate, document and communicate the carbon emissions saved, as well as the jobs created, if it wants to continue to receive such generous support.