In the world solar industry, that is, in the production, installation, and maintenance of photovoltaic panels, nearly 3.4 million people worked last year. According to a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency, it is 8.7% higher than in 2016. China has 2.2 million employees, accounting for two-thirds of the world’s population. In the US and Europe, workers in solar energy are declining.
China is also eight of the world’s ten largest photovoltaic panel manufacturers. The following are India, USA, and Japan. But while in China and India the number of people working in solar power is rising, for example in the US or Japan, it is declining. There is also a decline in employment in this sector in Europe. Last year, roughly eight percent of jobs grew by an estimated 99,600.
According to the International Agency for Renewable Energy (IRENA), this is due to the limited range of installations and the fact that European producers can hardly compete with Asian suppliers at their expense.
Sun & Wind Energy reports that the European solar energy market, which grew rapidly in 2008-2011, has lost its growth rate due to regulatory changes that reduce government support for this industry. This corresponds with last year’s autumn study published by the University of Bergen, according to which the possibilities of wind and photovoltaic power plants are likely to be much smaller than those currently considered for replacing conventional energy sources.
The negative cost of solar production reduces employment in the industry
Intermittent energy sources, according to Norwegian scientists, tend to channel their own revenue streams. Once built, they produce electricity at minimal cost and provided a well-functioning market that is not distorted by subsidies, it forces the owner to offer their production under certain circumstances even for a negative price.
In such a situation, those who are interested in installing additional capacities will find it hard to find a positive return on their investment. This may be one of the reasons why most of the jobs are now in the roofing sector, while initially there was more employment for land solar parks.
The EY consultancy, however, predicts that solar power in Europe this year will accelerate the pace and increase its share of electricity production so that in the period 2016-2021 could create up to 94,000 new jobs on the old continent. It should employ 174,700 people (full-time jobs).
Compared to 2016, it will be 145 percent more, but still a third less than in 2008 when the solar industry employs more than a quarter of a million Europeans. Further growth in employment in the solar industry will certainly be affected in the future by a gradual increase in the demand for photovoltaic panels recycling.
Optimistic forecasts speak for up to thirty years’ lifetime of currently-produced panels, but some of the first photovoltaic power plants since the turn of the millennium have seen a significant drop in performance today. Today, ENF Solar consults 40 world-class recycling companies. Among them is the only one from the East of Europe, the Czech Rema PV System.