Solar Energy Generation & Job Creation
We have seen the new budget announced recently, with a plethora of giveaways, incentives and promises of job creation. As a company, we work both north and south of the boarder. Through Activ8 Solar Energies we have created a sustainable business model in the solar thermal industry, with thousands of installs and continued business growth throughout the downturn. We have seen other companies come and go in the tough economical climate of the recession. In Northern Ireland we work as Solar NI, installing solar PV (electric solar) systems, where we have been gaining traction in a new territory while helping to create 16 new jobs in Newry, Co. Down within 1 year of commencing trading.
Our Neighbours in Northern Ireland
Through an incentive which has been in place for a number of years now in Northern Ireland, home owners are incentivised for the units of green energy produced on a yearly basis. Guaranteed for 20 years, this along with a small payment from the electricity companies for any energy sold to the grid, makes PV a very good seller. It pays for itself completely within 5-8 years and is guaranteed for 20, leaving it a no-brainer in terms of a long term sustainability measures for a home owner. An average home owner can expect to save anywhere from €600 to €800 on energy costs. A small grant similar to that of solar thermal could see a considerable growth of the Solar PV industry.
Take Northern Ireland for example, where the current solar industry directly employs 750 people from a population that is only a quarter the size of the Republic of Ireland’s. Employment would be created by SMEs and spread widely across the country. The spread of these jobs to match regional demand could serve as a welcome boost to the rural areas of the country. These areas have been the hardest hit by the recession, especially in comparison to urban centres such as Dublin and, to a lesser extent, Cork. Employment and prosperity opportunities in these areas would offer the demographic who are leaving the country in large numbers an incentive and opportunity to stay in their home towns and help rebuild communities which have been decimated by the recent recession. So, in real terms, you could expect to see up on 3,000 jobs directly contributed to the Solar PV trades created by a solar PV incentive or grant, never mind the increased consumer spend and VAT intake for the government’s coffers.
The Solar Power of Ireland
When you also tale into consideration that the Republic of Ireland has higher average solar yields than our Northern Irish counterparts, it makes even more sense to invest in Solar PV. Let us compare ourselves to our perceived sunnier continental friends; would it surprise you to know that south of a line from Dublin to Kenmare, Ireland’s potential for solar electricity generation is as good as that of Germany’s?
The Irish Examiner, last year, discussed these compelling statistics. It explained how Germany has installed tens of thousands of megawatts of solar, currently generating over 6% of its electricity with plans to go to 20%, whereas we have yet to install even 1 megawatt. This at a time when we need to increase the amount of renewable electricity we produce, reduce our CO2 emissions and decrease our dependence on imported fossil fuels.
So for now, solar thermal is the only show in town, with a reasonable pick up from the general population due to the current grants which are available. Solar thermal represents a strong return on investment along with a considerably improved standard of living for those who currently use kettles (i.e. virtually every Irish person!) and electric showers for their hot water needs during the 6-8 months in the year where you don’t actually need your central heating. Here at Activ8 Solar Energies, we currently employ approximately 80 staff and have seen our way through the poor economic times on the back of quality product, service and back up that has seen us gather many happy customers.
But we feel we could raise our country wide employment to double that with a simple, cost neutral incentive by the government. In our opinion, they may have missed a trick.