The renewable energy industry employed more than 10 million people in 2017, according to new figures published this week by the International Renewable Energy Agency, thereby surpassing the 10 million jobs figure for the first time thanks to an addition of more than 500,000 new jobs around the world.
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) published its fifth annual Renewable Energy and Jobs annual review this week, revealing that renewable energy employment in 2017 had increased by 5.3% since 2016, an increase of over 500,000 jobs which brings renewable energy jobs up past the 10 million milestone for the first time ever.
China, Brazil, the United States, India, Germany, and India remain the world’s leading renewable energy employers, together representing more than 70% of all industry jobs around the world — which serves as both testament to the importance of renewable energy in these countries, and the apathy in other countries which should be renewable energy leaders. While this is at least in part due to likely manufacturing locations supplying the larger global renewable energy industry, this also speaks to the wildly differing renewable energy policies around the world.
In fact, the bulk of renewable energy manufacturing is located in relatively few countries, which can be seen (at least in part) when you look at the global shift towards renewable energy jobs in Asia. The number of renewable energy jobs in Asia has been steadily increasing over the last few years — increasing from 3.5 million in 2015, 3.6 million in 2016, to sit at 3.8 million in 2017.
“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 regionalised picture, highlighting that in countries where attractive policies exist, the economic, social and environmental benefits of renewable energy are most evident,” continued Mr. Amin. “Fundamentally, this data supports our analysis that decarbonisation of the global energy system can grow the global economy and create up to 28 million jobs in the sector by 2050.”
The solar industry continues to be the largest renewable energy employer in the world, accounting for nearly 3.4 million jobs in 2017, up almost 9% from 2016 levels thanks in part to the mammoth 94 gigawatts (GW) worth of solar installed last year. Unsurprisingly, China is estimated to account for two-thirds of all solar PV jobs — around 2.2 million jobs — and representing a yearly expansion of 13%.
While not the next largest employer of renewable energy jobs — that honor goes to the liquid biofuels and large-hydropower industries — the wind industry is arguably the second most important renewable energy industry in the world, and accounted for 1.15 million jobs worldwide, which is a slight dip compared to last year. China, again, accounted for the most number of wind jobs with 44%, followed by Europe with 30%, and North America with 10%.
“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,” added Dr. 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 labour market regulations. Such considerations will support a fair and equitable transition to a renewables based energy system.”
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