The Austrian government seems to underestimate the number of jobs which the solar thermal sector could create over the next ten years. In the “Masterplan green jobs” published in October 2010, the Austrian Federal Ministry for Environment estimates that around 66,000 new jobs are going to be created in the renewable sector by 2020 if the share of renewable electricity and heat increases to 34 % within the next ten years.
The master plan foresees 6,500 new jobs in forestry for the production of biomass. Investment in the thermal insulation of buildings would create a number of 30,000 new jobs. The renewable electricity sector was going to be responsible for 20,000, and energy consulting and services created 4,000 new jobs. The switch of the heating system to renewable energies, however, would result in only 5,000 new jobs.
“The Austrian solar heating and cooling sector has created 4,000 new jobs since 2002, which means a figure of only 5,000 new jobs for solar thermal in the master plan of the environment ministry is a complete underestimate,” Roger Hackstock said, criticising the plan. The Managing Director of the solar industry association Austria Solar pointed out in a press release that the solar thermal sector could create 55,000 new jobs over the next ten years under certain conditions. This would be eight times the number of employees working in this sector today.
According to Austria Solar, the potential for using solar heat is enormous. About 40 % of the total final energy demand in Austria is used for low-temperature heat, which can be covered by solar energy. Currently, however, solar heat contributes only 1 % to it. “With certain financial and regulatory measures, the solar thermal share could be increased to 10 % by 2020,” emphasises Hackstock. The Managing Director calls for quick action: “To get the job machine running, we need a retrofit fund of at least EUR 100 million for the coming years, a solar initiative for housing projects subsidised by programmes of individual states, facilitation of solar installations in multi-family houses and a larger budget for research and development."
Unfortunately, there have not yet been any reliable and comparable numbers of full-time jobs in the solar thermal sector in Europe until today. Two respected sources have stated very different figures for the number of jobs in the European solar heating and cooling sector: The European Solar Thermal Industry Federation estimates that 1 full-time job is created by 80 kWth of newly installed capacity (114 m2). In the boom year, this calculation resulted in an estimated 41,700 full-time jobs in Europe. In the annual report of EurObserv’ER, however, the French organisation spoke of 58,000 employees in the European solar heating and cooling sector in 2008, an extrapolation based on information from individual associations in Europe.