The global shift to a clean energy economy keeps accelerating, creating millions of green jobs for workers around the world, and showing once again that decarbonization and economic growth can go hand in hand.
More than 7.7 million people were employed by renewable energy industries worldwide at the end of 2014, according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). This surging figure is up 18% from 2013, mirroring the global rise in new renewable energy installations.
IRENA’s Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2015 reports significant employment milestones in several renewable energy industries, including 2.5 million jobs in solar photovoltaics, 1.5 million jobs in large hydropower, and 1 million jobs in wind energy.
Renewable Energy Jobs Shifting East To Asia
Even casual observers of international energy markets will note the shift of renewable energy manufacturing and installation away from developed economies like the United States and Europe toward booming markets like China and India, so naturally green jobs have followed.
“Renewable energy continues to assert itself as a major global employer generating strong economic and social benefits worldwide,” said Adnan Z. Amin, IRENA Director-General. “This increase is being driven in part by declining renewable energy technology costs… we expect this upward trend to continue.”
Asia’s rise as a renewable energy powerhouse can’t be ignored. IRENA notes five of the top ten countries for renewable energy jobs were in Asia during 2014, up from just three in 2013. Even with continued employment expansion, the European Union and United States are home to just 25% of global renewable energy jobs, down from 31% in 2012.
China remains the world’s unquestioned renewable energy jobs leader, with 3.4 million renewable energy workers, led by 1.6 million jobs in the solar photovoltaic industry. China’s got 70% of the world’s solar manufacturing capacity, so naturally 80% of its renewable energy jobs are in the manufacturing segment. China is also the world leader for jobs in wind, solar heating and cooling, small and large hydropower, as well as biomass and biogas.
IRENA also expects India’s renewable energy workforce to surge in coming years. By their estimate, the country’s 100 gigawatt (GW) solar and 60 GW wind capacity targets will create an incredible one million new jobs by 2022. Japan, Malaysia, Korea, and Bangladesh are also expanding their share of green jobs, primarily from wind and solar PV manufacturing.
America and Europe Still Strong, But Waning Comparatively
Total employment also increased across the US, with total solar jobs up 22% to 173,800, overall wind jobs up 43% to 73,000, and total ethanol employment expanding 34% to an estimated 49,500 jobs. However, long-term concerns persist for the US renewable jobs market in the expected federal solar Investment Tax Credit expiration as well as uncertainty surrounding the federal wind Production Tax Credit renewal.
But whenever there’s a push in one direction, there’s a pull in another direction, and IRENA’s report does highlight slight renewable energy employment contractions in established markets across the European Union. 1.2 million workers were employed in the renewable energy industries across EU countries, down roughly 500,000 from the previous year.
Germany’s solar manufacturers felt the brunt of Asia’s rise, shedding roughly 11,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector compared to 2013. However, the country’s wind industry is expected to increase as onshore and offshore wind capacity additions keep growing, and Germany remains Europe’s top renewable energy job market with 371,400 employed workers. France also experienced a decline, with overall jobs falling 4%, but still leads Europe in biomass/biofuels and geothermal employment.
— IRENA (@IRENA) May 19, 2015