Poll reveals over 20,000 solar jobs at risk following planned subsidy cuts

Industry chiefs have revealed more than 20,000 solar industry jobs could be lost if Government plans for extreme subsidy cuts go through.

A survey of 204 solar companies by the Solar Trade Association found 576 people have already been made redundant with the threat of a 1,600 further job losses if DECC goes ahead with proposed changes to support.

The survey, which covers nearly 10% of the primary solar sector, is published in full today.

The numbers are in addition to the 1,200 solar job losses reported over the last few months at three leading solar companies that have already gone out of business.

This brings the confirmed running total of jobs in the solar industry that have been lost to almost 1,800, with thousands more likely.

If the findings reflect the whole industry, which currently consists of over 2,000 companies with solar as a primary business focus, then 6,500 jobs could have already been lost in the solar sector with a further 18,500 on notice.

The Solar Trade Association has previously estimated that 27,000 jobs out of a total of 35,000 in the solar industry and its supply chain could be at risk, an estimate the survey supports.

The survey shows the essential need for Government to move swiftly to secure the sector, says the trade body.

Paul Barwell, CEO of the Solar Trade Association commented: “Those 1,800 jobs that we know have already gone represent technical skills and experience that has been built up in the solar industry over the last five years.

“It is this very supply chain and know-how that is essential to delivering low-cost solar. And yet the Government is at risk of throwing many more of these jobs away.”

Critically these redundancies have come before the Government has even made a final decision on cuts to the solar Feed-in Tariff. A number were also made before even the public consultation on the different options closed at the end of October.

The survey also found that the typical salary of the jobs at risk was between 20k and £30k a year.

The Solar Trade Association and a group of cross-party MPs from all political parties including the Conservatives are urging the Government to adopt the STA’s ‘£1 emergency solar rescue plan’, which would safeguard many of the jobs at risk.

The plan was raised by MPs no less than three times in a Westminster Hall debate last week. The plan would only add an extra £1 per year on average household energy bills from 2019 for new solar deployed over the next three years – enough to power the equivalent of 875,000 homes. This alternative plan would allow solar to continue in the UK while giving the Government the cost control guarantees it needs.

One business chief commented: “The whole business is at risk, we may have to restructure to remove renewables and change back to electrical contracting, which would mean losing five jobs.”

And another added: “After eight years building a renewable energy business this is a very difficult time for us. To see a Government simply destroy all the good ground that has been made will be a legacy that will stick with the Cameron, Osborne and Rudd trio for a long time.”