The renewable energy industry created more than 500 000 jobs globally last year – a 5.3% year-on-year increase, says the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena).
According to the fifth edition of Irena’s ‘Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review’, the total number of people employed in the sector now stands at 10.3-million.
China, Brazil, the US, India, Germany and Japan are the largest employers in this sector, representing more than 70% of all industry jobs globally, with 60% of those jobs being in Asia.
Although growing numbers of countries are reaping the socioeconomic benefits of renewables, the bulk of manufacturing takes place in relatively few countries and domestic markets vary enormously in size.
“Renewable energy has become a pillar of low-carbon economic growth for governments all over the world, a fact that is reflected by the growing number of jobs created in the sector,” comments Irena director-general Adnan Amin.
He adds that the data also underscores an increasingly regionalised picture. In countries where attractive policies exist, the economic, social and environmental benefits of renewable energy are most evident.
“Fundamentally, this data supports our analysis that decarbonation of the global energy system can grow the global economy and create up to 28-million jobs in the sector by 2050.”
The solar photovoltaic (PV) industry remains the largest employer of all renewable energy technologies, accounting for about 3.4-million jobs – up 9% from 2016 – following a record 94 GW of installations in 2017. China was estimated to account for two-thirds, or 2.2-million, of these jobs, representing an expansion of 13% compared with 2016.
Despite a slight dip in Japan and the US, the two countries followed China as the largest markets for solar PV employment in the world. India and Bangladesh complete a top five that accounts for around 90% of global solar PV jobs.
Jobs in the wind industry contracted slightly last year to 1.15-million globally. While wind jobs are found in a relatively small number of countries, the degree of concentration is lower than in the solar PV sector.
China accounts for 44% of global wind employment, followed by Europe and North America with 30% and 10%. Half of the ten countries with the largest installed capacity of wind power in the world are European, Irena reports.
“The energy transformation narrative 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,” Irena policy unit head and knowledge, policy and finance deputy director Dr Rabia Ferroukhi says.
“By providing policymakers 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 industry policies and labour market regulations. Such considerations will support a fair and equitable transition to a renewables-based energy system,” Ferroukhi states.