Global renewable energy jobs exceed 10 million

The number of people employed in the renewable energy industry globally has surpassed 10 million for the first time following the creation of 500,000 new roles in 2017, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

IRENA’s fifth annual review of renewable energy and jobs found that the number of people employed in the sector worldwide stood at 10.3 million as of the end of 2017 – up 5.3% from 2016. This increase has been attributed primarily to strong growth in Asia, where 62% of all roles in the industry are based.

“Renewable energy has become a pillar of low-carbon economic growth for governments all over the world, a fact reflected by the growing number of jobs created in the sector,” said IRENA’s director-general Adnan Z. Amin. “The data also underscores an increasingly regionalised picture, highlighting that in countries where attractive policies exist, the economic, social and environmental benefits of renewable energy are most evident.”

The review supports IRENA’s prediction that the total number of people employed in the industry could reach 28 million by 2050, Amin added.

UK leads the charge

The review found that more than 70% of all industry jobs globally were based in the world’s six biggest renewable energy employers – China, Brazil, the United States, India, Germany and Japan – with IRENA noting that while growing numbers of countries are reaping the socio-economic benefits of renewables, the bulk of manufacturing still takes place in relatively few nations.

The UK is the second biggest renewable energy employer in Europe with 118,200 jobs, the report shows, with the largest proportion (41,800) falling within the wind sector. Across the continent, it was surpassed only by Germany.

Solar PV remains the largest employer of all renewable technologies following a record 94GW of installations in 2017. Solar accounts for almost 3.4 million jobs, up almost 9% from 2016, with two-thirds of solar jobs based in China.

Meanwhile, jobs in the global wind industry shrank slightly in 2017 to 1.15 million, the review found. Around 44% of these roles are in China with Europe and North America accounting for 30% and 10% respectively, making the degree of concentration lower than in the solar PV sector, it added. 

The findings come a week after a report co-authored by IRENA warned that the global economy is not on track to deliver on the clean energy targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The global transition to clean energy is being held back by the heat and transport sectors, according to that report.

Sarah George

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