A new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) says that there are now more than 8.1 million employed in the renewable energy industry. This is up 5% from the previous year.
Tabled at IRENA’s latest council meeting on May 25, Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2016, also indicates that there are an additional 1.3 million people employed in the large hydro sector worldwide.
“The continued job growth in the renewable energy sector is significant because it stands in contrast to trends across the energy sector,” said Adnan Amin, director general at IRENA. “This increase is being driven by declining renewable energy technology costs and enabling policy frameworks. We expect this trend to continue as the business case for renewables strengthens and as countries move to achieve their climate targets agreed in Paris.”
The total number of renewable energy jobs worldwide rose in 2015 while jobs in the broader energy sector fell, noted the report. For example, the United States saw renewable energy jobs increase 6% while oil and gas employment decreased by 18%. China has more people employed in renewable energy 3.5 million people versus 2.6 million in the oil and gas sector.
As in previous years, enabling policy frameworks remained a key driver of employment. National and state auctions in India and Brazil, tax credits in the United States and favourable policies in Asia have all contributed to employment increases.
Countries with the most renewable energy jobs in 2015 included China, Brazil, the US, India, Japan and Germany. Solar PV remains the largest renewable energy employer worldwide with 2.8 million jobs with jobs in manufacturing, installation and operations & maintenance. Liquid biofuels was the second largest global employer with 1.7 million jobs, followed by wind power, which grew 5% to reach 1.1 million global jobs.
“As the ongoing energy transition accelerates, growth in renewable energy employment will remain strong,” said Amin. “IRENA’s research estimates that doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix by 2030 – enough to meet global climate and development targets – would result in more than 24 million jobs worldwide.”
Select report findings:
- Solar PV is the largest renewable energy employer with 2.8 million jobs worldwide, an 11% increase from last count. Employment grew in Japan and the United States, stabilized in China, and decreased in the European Union.
- Strong wind installation rates in China, the United States and Germany drove a 5% increase in global employment to reach 1.1 million jobs. Wind employment in the United States alone rose by 21%.
- Jobs in liquid biofuels, solar heating and cooling, and large and small hydropower decreased due to various factors including increased mechanization, slowing housing markets, the removal of subsidies and the drop in new installations.
- With more than a third of the global renewable energy capacity additions in 2015, China led employment with 3.5 million jobs.
- In the European Union, the United Kingdom, Germany and Denmark were the global leaders in offshore wind employment. Overall, job figures in the EU declined for the fourth year due to weak economic growth. Jobs fell 3% to 1.17 million in 2014, the last year for which data is available. Germany remains the highest European Union renewables employer– employing nearly as many as France, the United Kingdom, and Italy combined.
- In the United States, renewable energy employment increased 6% driven by growth in wind and solar. Solar employment grew 22% – 12 times faster than job creation in the United States economy – surpassing jobs in oil and gas. Employment in wind industry also grew 21%.
- Japan experienced impressive gains in solar PV in recent years, resulting in a 28% increase in employment in 2014.
- In India, solar and wind markets have seen substantial activity, as the ambitious renewable energy targets are translated into concrete policy frameworks.
- Africa has also seen many interesting developments leading to job creation, including solar and wind development in Egypt, Morocco, Kenya and South Africa.
- IRENA’s early research indicates that the renewable energy sector employed larger shares of women than the broader energy sector.