Renewable energy now employs 9.8m people globally

Global renewables employment has climbed every year since 2012, with solar photovoltaic becoming the largest segment by total jobs in 2016.

In the United States, jobs in the solar industry increased 17 times faster than the overall economy, growing 24.5 per cent from the previous year to over 260,000. The wind sector saw its employment base increase by 7% to 1.2 million jobs, thanks in part to continued and significant growth in China, which employed 509,000 people in its wind energy sector during 2016.

Overall, the annual increase in total jobs was about 1.1 per cent, the agency estimated. The solid biomass and biogas sectors employed about 723,000 and 333,000 people respectively, while jobs in solar heating and cooling declined 12% to 828,000. China, for example, had 3.64 million people on the clean energy payroll in 2016, while in the USA solar jobs grew 24.5 per cent in the previous year to more than 260,000.

Employment in renewables, excluding large hydro power, increased 2.8 per cent a year ago to 8.3 million people, with China, Brazil, the U.S., India, Japan and Germany the leading job markets.

The International Renewable Energy Agency, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, analyzes the renewable energy sector and published an annual review on job growth.

"Irena has provided this year a more complete picture on the state of employment in the renewables sector, by including large hydropower data", said Dr Rabia Ferroukhi, head of the policy unit and deputy director of Knowledge, Policy and Finance.

IRENA director-general Adnan Z Amin said he expects the renewables workforce to continue growing rapidly over the coming decade. Asian countries accounted for 62 per cent of jobs in 2016, compared to 50 per cent in 2013. "Installation and manufacturing jobs continue to shift to the region, particularly Malaysia and Thailand", which has become a global center for solar PV making, IRENA said.

Northern California utility Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) also has plans to shut down the state's final nuclear power plant in 2025, citing concerns about incompatibility of the plant with the state's need for power system flexibility while adding more renewable energy. "These off-grid mini-grid solutions are giving communities the chance to leap-frog traditional electricity infrastructure development and create new jobs in the process".

  • Zachary Reyes