Following recent changes to the UK government’s energy policies, the local solar energy industry has been forced to slash more than half of its workforce — a loss of over half of the total workforce of 35,000 — according to recent reports.
While some cuts were likely on the cards no matter what, some analysts have come out in recent days to note that the ones that were implemented were likely excessive, and also put into action too rapidly.
A number of firms have since collapsed, owing to the rapid nature of the cuts — which didn’t give enough time for adaptation to the changing circumstances. The latest collapse seems to be the Solar Cloth Company, accompanied by the recent collapse of Solarlec a few weeks ago (accompanied by 170 job losses).
In its coverage of the matter, The Guardian noted that the “Solar Trade Association (STA), which represents the industry, said it was collecting exact statistics to be published soon but experts believe up to 18,000 jobs have gone in less than 12 months.”
The chairman of the STA, Jonathan Selwyn, was quoted as saying that the industry was “very hard hit” and that many firms were either changing their business models or heading overseas.
Selwyn noted that “this must be the only industrial sector where the government is congratulating itself for causing thousands of job losses.”
A solid point. Potential job losses are often a major point of focus when considering policy changes, but the situation seems to have been a bit different with regard to the solar industry.
A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change commented when discussing the reason for the cuts that: “Our priority is to keep energy bills as low as possible for families and businesses whilst supporting low-carbon technologies that represent value for money. The cost of solar has steadily declined over the last 10 years and it is right that as this comes down so should the consumer-funded support.”
A professor of international energy and climate change policy at University College London, Michael Grubb, was quoted as saying that it wasn’t clear yet if the UK’s solar sector would settle into a slower growth rate or tank completely.
“Solar has benefited from extraordinarily generous subsidies and no one — including me — expected to see such incredible growth rates. It has been quite seismic for a country that was getting a smidgen of power from renewables only a few years ago. But the cutbacks (in subsidies) have been dramatic and quick.”
It should be remembered that the UK’s energy and climate change secretary, Amber Rudd, has previously revealed the intent to close all of the UK’s coal-fired power plants by 2025. While wind energy projects seem likely to make up for a fair amount of the closed generation capacity, solar energy will likely factor in somewhat as well, especially when considering that the Hinkley Point C nuclear project is still (seemingly) in purgatory.
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