The renewable energy industry created more than 500,000 new jobs globally in 2017, a 5.3 percent increase from 2016, according to the latest figures released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). According to IRENA, the total number of people employed in the sector (including large hydropower) now stands at 10.3 million globally, surpassing the 10 million figure for the first time.
Although growing numbers of countries are reaping the socio-economic benefits of renewables, the bulk of manufacturing takes place in relatively few countries and domestic markets vary enormously in size. Sixty percent of all renewable energy jobs are in Asia.
“Renewable energy has become a pillar of low-carbon economic growth for governments all over the world, a fact reflected by the growing number of jobs created in the sector.” said Adnan Z. Amin, Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency.
“The data also underscores an increasingly regionalized picture, highlighting that in countries where attractive policies exist, the economic, social and environmental benefits of renewable energy are most evident,” Amin said. “Fundamentally, this data supports our analysis that decarbonization of the global energy system can grow the global economy and create up to 28 million jobs in the sector by 2050.”
The solar PV industry remains the largest employer of all renewable energy technologies, accounting for close to 3.4 million jobs, up almost 9 percent from 2016 following a record 94 GW of installations in 2017. China was estimated to account for two-thirds of PV jobs — equivalent to 2.2 million — representing an expansion of 13 percent over the previous year.
Despite a slight dip in Japan and the United States, the two countries followed China as the largest markets for solar PV employment in the world. India and Bangladesh complete a top five that accounts for around 90 percent of global solar PV jobs.
Jobs in the wind industry contracted slightly last year to 1.15 million worldwide. While wind jobs are found in a relatively small number of countries, the degree of concentration is lower than in the solar PV sector. China accounts for 44 percent of global wind employment, followed by Europe and North America with 30 and 10 percent, respectively. Half of the top ten countries with the largest installed capacity of wind power in the world are European.
“The energy transformation is one of improving economic opportunity and a rise in social wellbeing as countries implement supportive policies and attractive regulatory frameworks to fuel industrial growth and sustainable job creation,” said Rabia Ferroukhi, head of IRENA’s policy unit and deputy director of knowledge, policy and finance.
“By providing policy makers with this level of detail about the composition of renewable energy employment and skills requirements, countries can make informed decisions on several important national objectives, from education and training, to industrial policies and labor market regulations,” Ferroukhi said. “Such considerations will support a fair and equitable transition to a renewables based energy system.”