More than 8.1 million people worldwide worked in the renewable energy industry last year – a 5% increase from 2014 – according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
The report, “Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2016,” says the total number of renewable energy jobs worldwide rose in 2015, but jobs in the broader energy sector fell. In the U.S., for example, renewable energy jobs increased 6%, and employment in oil and gas decreased 18%. Likewise, in China, renewable energy employed 3.5 million people; oil and gas employed 2.6 million.
Countries with the most renewable energy jobs in 2015 included China, Brazil, the U.S., India, Japan and Germany. The solar photovoltaic sector remained the largest renewable energy employer worldwide with 2.8 million jobs (up from 2.5 million at last count). With 1.7 million jobs, liquid biofuels was the second-largest global employer with 1.7 million jobs.
Coming in third, says IRENA, was wind power, which grew 5% to reach 1.1 million global jobs. In the U.S. alone, wind employment rose a whopping 21%. Specifically, IRENA attributes the strong wind installation rates in China, the U.S. and Germany to the 5% global increase.
In the European Union, the U.K., Germany and Denmark were the global leaders in offshore wind employment. Overall, however, job figures in the EU declined for the fourth year due to weak economic growth, according to the report, which adds that Germany remained the highest EU renewables employer.
“The continued job growth in the renewable energy sector is significant because it stands in contrast to trends across the energy sector,” comments Adnan Z. Amin, IRENA’s director-general. “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.”
As in previous years, says IRENA, enabling policy frameworks remained a key driver of employment: e.g., national and state auctions in India and Brazil, tax credits in the U.S., and favorable policies in Asia.
IRENA’s early research also indicates that the renewable energy sector employed larger shares of women than the broader energy sector last year.
“As the ongoing energy transition accelerates, growth in renewable energy employment will remain strong,” adds 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.”
The full report can be downloaded here.