Can coal industry workers find jobs in the solar sector?

Switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources like solar power is a crucial move for a sustainable future. But what happens to workers currently in the coal sector? A report on EU Solar Jobs for 2021 by SolarPower Europe brings optimistic news. It says about half a million jobs in the EU coal industry could be lost by 2030 due to the shift to clean energy. But alongside that, the solar industry is seeing a significant increase in employment. The report predicts a rise from 357,000 jobs in 2020 to 1.1 million by 2030. What does this mean? Does the solar sector have the potential to absorb most coal industry workers leaving over this decade?

As an example that it’s possible, the report cites benefits for mining areas within the EU and dispels myths about the negative impact of transitioning to renewable energy. Studies show that coal-rich regions can indeed benefit greatly from the energy transition. One advantage mentioned is that after coal mines close, there’s unused land ideal for building large solar parks. In some cases, abandoned mines are filled with water, creating artificial lakes. These “green” lakes can be used for placing solar panels on floating platforms. Additionally, coal-rich regions already have infrastructure and a workforce with knowledge in the energy field, making it easier to retrain for jobs in the solar sector.

The report states that EU coal-rich regions have a huge potential for renewable energy – up to 1,516 GW. Spain, Poland, and Romania lead in ground solar park construction, while Germany and Spain excel in rooftop solar systems. Germany already has good examples – mining areas successfully transitioned to solar parks, now employing more people than coal power plants did before.

The switch from coal to solar energy is a win-win situation. It reduces environmental pollution while creating sustainable new green jobs. The report offers an optimistic view of the future of the energy sector in the EU, highlighting the enormous potential of solar energy to drive a fair energy transition.

Photo: Unsplash/Moritz Kindle