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British Solar Industry In Jeopardy, 12,500 Jobs Lost

A new report has found that jobs in the British solar industry are being slashed amid a very gloomy outlook for that sector.

The study, from the Solar Trade Association (STA) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), cited by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers detailed a 32 percent fall in the number of employees among the 238 solar industry companies in the U.K. surveyed, from 5,362 in 2015, to the current tally of 3,665.

The STA believes that at least 12,500 jobs may have been lost over the past year throughout the entire British solar industry.

Three in ten respondents also believe they will lay off more workers over the next 12 months, though half feel their workforce will remain unchanged.

The study detailed numerous concerns over the future of solar in the UK, including the uncertainty created by the expected withdrawal of Britain from the European Union, popularly known as Brexit. In addition, the National Grid utility warned that the UK would likely miss its legally binding EU aim of renewable sources making up 15 percent of national energy demand.

Aside from the factors related to the EU, deployment in domestic solar has plummeted by 80 percent for domestic solar under the Feed-in Tariff (Fit) over the past year. Commercial solar roofs deployment under Fits is capped at just 15MW per quarter, while the government is currently allocating only 1 percent of new renewable energy project expenditure to solar power under the Fits. As a result, some executives in the STA/PwC study believe officials have tricked the solar industry.

“Since the government’s U-turn, our hand has been forced to re-evaluate our strategy for both roof and ground mount installations, and this has had a direct impact on our team and internal resourcing requirements,” said Nick Boyle, CEO of Lightsource.

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“We urge new ministers, rather than increase the tax burden of going solar, please reward investment with sensible solar tax breaks consistent with action on climate change,” declared Leonie Greene, head of external affairs at the STA.

The STA cited actions by the governments of Scotland and London to promote solar energy use and the sector as a whole. Nevertheless, the report found that one in eight respondents are interested in expanding to foreign markets with Africa, North America, and Northern Europe as the main regions of interest.

The British solar industry in June generated a record 23.9 percent of national energy demand according to the STA. The group also noted that solar powers the equivalent to 3.8 million homes in the UK. Despite this, around 40 percent of solar power firms in the country are either exiting the market or diversifying into other energy sources, the study also found.

By Erwin Cifuentes for Oilprice.com

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