Worldwide Renewable Energy is Employing nearly 10 Million People—IRENA

Worldwide Renewable Energy is Employing nearly 10 Million People—IRENA

by on in Alternative Energy, Renewable Energy, Solar Energy

In its latest Renewable Energy and Jobs—Annual Review 2017, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) found that more than 9.8 million people were employed in renewable energy in 2016. The report covers a broad spectrum of renewable energy technologies, including wind, solar, bioenergy, hydro and other technologies.

“Falling costs and enabling policies have steadily driven up investment and employment in renewable energy worldwide since IRENA’s first annual assessment in 2012, when just over seven million people were working in the sector,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Amin. “In the last four years, for instance, the number of jobs in the solar and wind sectors combined has more than doubled.”IRENA's renewable energy jobs figures. Courtesy IRENA

The solar photovoltaics industry was the largest renewable energy employer in 2016. It grew 12 percent over 2015 to 3.1 million jobs. The majority of them in China, the US and India. In fact, in the US, the report found that the solar industry employed 24.5 percent more people (260,000) in 2016 than in 2015, growing 17 times faster than the overall economy.

Wind power employed 1.2 million people at the end of 2016, according to the report, a 7 percent increase in employment. Bioenergy accounted for another 2.7 million jobs, led by Brazil, China, the US and India.

“Renewables are directly supporting broader socio-economic objectives, with employment creation increasingly recognized as a central component of the global energy transition. As the scales continue to tip in favor of renewables, we expect that the number of people working in the renewables sector could reach 24 million by 2030, more than offsetting fossil-fuel job losses and becoming a major economic driver around the world,” Mr. Amin added.

The annual review shows that global renewable-energy employment, excluding large hydropower, reached 8.3 million in 2016, up from 8.1 million in 2015. When accounting for direct employment in large hydropower, the total number of renewable-energy jobs globally climbs to 9.8 million. China, Brazil, the United States, India, Japan and Germany accounted for most of the renewable-energy jobs. In China for example, 3.64 million people worked in renewables in 2016, a rise of 3.4 per cent.

“IRENA has provided this year a more complete picture on the state of employment in the renewables sector, by including large hydropower data,” said Rabia Ferroukhi, head of IRENA’s Policy Unit and deputy director of Knowledge, Policy and Finance. Excluding large hydropower, renewables employed 8.3 million people in 2016. “It is important to recognize these additional 1.5 million working people, as they represent the largest renewable energy technology by installed capacity.”

The majority of the jobs, 62 percent, are located in Asia, according to the IRENA report. It observed that Malaysia and Thailand are becoming a global center for solar PV manufacturing. In Africa utility-scale renewable energy is growing quickly South Africa and North Africa now account for three quarters of the continent’s 62,000 renewable jobs.

“In some African countries, with the right resources and infrastructure, we are seeing jobs emerge in manufacturing and installation for utility-scale projects. For much of the continent however, distributed renewables, like off-grid solar, are bringing energy access and economic development. 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,” Ferroukhi said.


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