The number of people around the world employed in the renewable energy industry rose 5 percent year-over-year in 2015 to exceed 8.1 million, according to a research report released today by IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency). That stands in stark contrast to recent trends in the broader global energy sector, where jobs numbers have been falling.
Declining costs and more supportive energy policy frameworks have spurred jobs growth in the renewable energy industry worldwide, IRENA highlights. "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," Director-General Adnan Z. Amin stated.
Renewable energy employment in the U.S. rose 6 percent YoY in 2015 while oil & gas industry employment dropped 18 percent. Furthermore, some 3.5 million Chinese are employed in the country's renewable energy industry. That's nearly 1 million more than those working in China's oil and gas sector, IRENA points out.
Renewable energy jobs: an upward trajectory
The number of renewable energy jobs was highest in China, Brazil, the U.S., India, Japan and Germany in 2015, according to IRENA's "Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2016."
In terms of technology, more people were working in the solar photovoltaic (PV) industry than any other: 2.8 million, up from 2.5 million at IRENA's last count. Liquid biofuels was the second largest employer, employing 1.7 million. Wind power jobs followed, increasing 5 percent YoY to reach 1.1 million.
Other key findings include:
- Solar PV is the largest renewable energy employer with 2.8 million jobs worldwide, an 11 percent 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 per cent increase in global employment to reach 1.1 million jobs. Wind employment in the United States alone rose by 21 percent.
- 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 percent 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 percent driven by growth in wind and solar. Solar employment grew 22 percent – 12 times faster than job creation in the United States economy – surpassing jobs in oil and gas. Employment in wind industry also grew 21 percent.
- Japan experienced impressive gains in solar PV in recent years, resulting in a 28 percent 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.
Prospect of 24 million renewable energy jobs
"As the ongoing energy transition accelerates, growth in renewable energy employment will remain strong," Amin added. "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."
Favorable policy frameworks are keys to fostering ongoing growth in renewable energy employment. The momentum spurring governments to institute supportive policies and provide incentives to promote greater renewable energy resource development has been gaining momentum since 195-plus nations signed the UN Paris climate accord this past December.
Brazil and India have carried out renewable energy auctions, tax credits have been extended in the U.S. and Asian governments are enacting favorable policies during the past year, IRENA notes. All have contributed to "green" job creation and sustainable growth and development.
IRENA Convenes 11th General Council Meeting in Abu Dhabi
The report was released as more than 300 high-level government representatives from 96 countries gathered at IRENA's headquarters in Abu Dhabi for its 11th Council meeting. That's the largest number yet represented.
IRENA member nations elected Bahamas Minister of the Environment and Housing H.E. Kenred Dorsett as meeting chair and Ethiopia as Vice-Chair.
Director-General Amin then presented a progress report on the organization's work over the past two years. "A lot has happened since IRENA’s establishment five years ago. We are implementing our new work program with determination and confidence that the current biennium holds great promise for accelerating the global uptake of renewable energy. We are proud of our achievements to date and energized by the unwavering support of our Members."
*Image credits: "Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2016," IRENA