IRENA: Solar biggest renewable employer globally

The global renewable energy industry now employs over 7.7 million people, according to research from the International Renewable Energy Association (IRENA). Solar remains the largest job creator, IRENA finds.

The research, published as part of the report Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2015, estimates an 18% increase in renewable energy employees since last year.

The news is a mixture of good and bad for the solar PV sector. In numerical terms, solar PV dominates, but while the overall workforce has grown, the concentrations have shifted, with falls in employment in Europe counter-balanced by increases in China and the U.S. IRENA estimates that two-thirds of solar PV jobs are in China, while the number employed in the Europe declined recently by 35%.

In a statement accompanying the release of the report, director general of IRENA Adnan Z. Amin, said, “We are seeing the widest spread of employment through renewable energy this year. Five of the 10 countries with the most renewable energy jobs are now located in Asia: China, India, Indonesia, Japan, and Bangladesh.”

Amin added, “Here in the United States, a country fast becoming a leader in renewable energy innovation, we are seeing a rapid rise in deployment of solar PV in particular, along with strong investment in wind in several states and a leading focus on development of advanced biofuels.“

IRENA’s findings follow The Solar Foundation’s research that showed that U.S. solar jobs grow by nearly 20% in 2014.Then, Andrea Luecke, executive director and president of The Solar Foundation, said that the 53% growth over the previous four years had been “astounding.” The Solar Foundation also reported in January that job growth in U.S. solar had outstripped that of the fossil fuel sector.

Solar jobs within the U.S. are set to increase dramatically over the next five years, following President Obama’s announcement last month of The Solar Ready Vets program that aims to retrain retiring military veterans to work in the solar industry. That program has the initial aim of training 75,000 solar workers by 2020.