Renewable energy jobs: 8.1 million and rising

The renewable energy industry is creating an ever increasing number of jobs worldwide. According to a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), more than 8.1 million people around the globe are now employed by the renewable energy sector – a 5% increase from 2015.

Released on Wednesday, Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2016 also provides a global estimate of the number of jobs supported by large hydropower, with a conservative estimate of an additional 1.3 million direct jobs worldwide.

“The continued job growth in the renewable energy sector is significant because it stands in contrast to trends across the energy sector,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin.

Declining renewable energy technology costs and enabling policy frameworks are driving the increase in jobs around the world, Amin added. “We expect this trend to continue as the business case for renewables strengthens and as countries move to achieve their climate targets agreed in Paris.”

The total number of renewable energy jobs worldwide rose in 2015 while jobs in the broader energy sector fell, finds the report. In the United States, for example, renewable energy jobs increased 6% while employment in oil and gas decreased 18%. Likewise in China, renewable energy employed 3.5 million people, while oil and gas employed 2.6 million.

The report found that as in previous years, enabling policy frameworks remained a key driver of employment. National and state auctions in India and Brazil, tax credits in the U.S. and favorable policies in Asia have all contributed to employment increases.

Countries with the most renewable energy jobs in 2015 included China, Brazil, the U.S., India, Japan and Germany. The solar PV sector remains the largest renewable energy employer worldwide with 2.8 million jobs (up from 2.5 million at last count) with jobs in manufacturing, installation and operations and maintenance. Liquid biofuels was the second largest global employer with 1.7 million jobs, followed by wind power, which grew 5% to reach 1.1 million global jobs.

“As the ongoing energy transition accelerates, growth in renewable energy employment will remain strong,” Amin said. “IRENA’s research estimates that doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix by 2030 – enough to meet global climate and development targets – would result in more than 24 million jobs worldwide.”