PV sector leads in global renewable energy employment


The photovoltaic sector has become the biggest employer in the global renewable energy field, according to a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

Last year, the global PV sector accounted for 2.3 million jobs around the world, with most of them concentrated in China, the IRENA report, Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2014, found.

The comprehensive annual review shows steady growth in the number of renewable energy jobs worldwide, which expanded 14% from 5.7 million in 2012 to 6.5 million in 2013, according to IRENA.

The report underscores the important role that renewables continue to play in employment creation and growth in the global economy, according to IRENA, which will present its analysis at the Clean Energy Ministerial in Seoul, South Korea, on Monday. The conference brings together energy ministers and other high-level officials from 23 countries with the aim of accelerating the transition to a global clean energy economy.

PV installations in China increased five-fold from 2011 to 2013

The trend shows an increase in Chinese PV installation jobs while while manufacturing jobs remain stable as growing demand is absorbing the oversupply of PV modules, the report found. IRENA added that growth in China can be attributed to a significant increase in annual installation and manufacturing activity as well as differences in the way employment figures are estimated. IRENA estimates a five-fold increase of solar PV installations in China from 2011 to 2013.

"Surging demand for solar PV in China and Japan has increased employment in the installation sector and eased some PV module over-supply concerns," said Rabia Ferroukhi, heading the Knowledge, Policy and Finance division at IRENA and lead author of the report. "Consequently some Chinese manufacturers are now adding capacity."

"With 6.5 million people directly or indirectly employed in renewable energy, the sector is proving that it is no longer a niche, it has become a significant employer worldwide," said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. "The insights into shifts along segments of the value-chain revealed in the report are crucial to developing policy that strengthens job growth in this important sector of the economy."

Renewable energy employment was shaped by regional shifts, industry realignments, growing competition and advances in technologies and manufacturing processes in 2013. The largest employers by country are China, Brazil, the United States, India, Germany, Spain and Bangladesh, while the largest employers by sector are solar photovoltaic, biofuels, wind, modern biomass and biogas.

In the wind industry, China and Canada provided positive impulses while the outlook for the United States remains somewhat mixed because of political uncertainty. The offshore wind industry is still concentrated in Europe, particularly the United Kingdom and Germany.

The biofuels value chain provides the second largest number of renewable energy jobs after solar PV. The United States remains the largest biofuels producer, while Brazil remains the largest employer.