Renewable energy employs 6.5m worldwide, report finds

The increasingly important role that renewable energy plays in job creation and economic growth has been further highlighted by a new report which reveals that 6.5 million people were employed in the industry last year.

The report, published today (12 May) by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), reveals that international employment across the renewable energy sector rose by almost a million people in the space of a year, with 5.7 million people directly or indirectly employed by the industry back in 2012.

“The sector is proving that it is no longer a niche, it has become a significant employer worldwide,” said IRENA’s 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 report says.

Growth in China

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.

The report also points to a significant growth in Chinese employment, which can be attributed to a significant increase in annual installation and manufacturing activity. 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 a lead author of the report. “Consequently, some Chinese manufacturers are now adding capacity.”

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 report concludes that the offshore wind industry is still concentrated in Europe, particularly the United Kingdom and Germany. 

The report is being presented later today at the Clean Energy Ministerial in Seoul, South Korea. Abu Dhabi-based organisation IRENA represents over 150 countries and was launched in 2009 with a goal of providing a renewable energy-focused partner to the International Energy Agency.

Download the full report – Renewable Energy and Jobs: Annual Review 2014 – here.

Luke Nicholls

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