More than 8.1 million people worldwide are now employed by the renewable energy industry – a five percent increase from last year – according to a report released today by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) at its 11th Council meeting. The report, Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2016, also provides a global estimate of the number of jobs supported by large hydropower, with a conservative estimate of an additional 1.3 million direct jobs worldwide.
“The continued job growth in the renewable energy sector is significant because it stands in contrast to trends across the energy sector,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “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, finds the report. In the United States for example, renewable energy jobs increased 6 per cent while employment in oil and gas decreased 18 per cent. Likewise in China, renewable energy employed 3.5 million people, while oil and gas employed 2.6 million.
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 United States, India, Japan and Germany. The solar photovoltaic (PV) sector remains the largest renewable energy employer worldwide with 2.8 million jobs (up from 2.5 at last count) 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 per cent to reach 1.1 million global jobs.
“As the ongoing energy transition accelerates, growth in renewable energy employment will remain strong,” said Mr. 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 per cent increase from last count. Employment grew in Japan and the United States, stabilised in China, and decreased in the European Union.
Strong wind installation rates in China, the United States and Germany drove a 5 per cent increase in global employment to reach 1.1 million jobs. Wind employment in the United States alone rose by 21 per cent.
Jobs in liquid biofuels, solar heating and cooling, and large and small hydropower decreased due to various factors including increased mechanisation, 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 per cent 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 per cent driven by growth in wind and solar. Solar employment grew 22 per cent – 12 times faster than job creation in the United States economy – surpassing jobs in oil and gas. Employment in wind industry also grew 21 per cent.
Japan experienced impressive gains in solar PV in recent years, resulting in a 28 per cent 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.