IRENA: Global renewable energy jobs increased in 2015

By Erin Voegele | June 03, 2016

The International Renewable Energy Agency has released a report finding more than 8.1 million people worldwide are currently employed by the renewable energy industry, up 5 percent from last year.

The report, titled “Renewable Energy and Jobs—Annual Review 2016,” determined the total number of renewable energy jobs increased in 2015 while jobs in the broader energy sector fell. In the U.S., renewable energy jobs increased 6 percent, while employment in oil and gas decreased 18 percent. In China, renewable energy employed 3.5 million people, while oil and gas employed only 2.6 million.

“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. “This increase is being driven by declining renewable energy technology costs and enabling policy frameworks. 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.”

China, Brazil, the U.S., India, Japan and Germany had the most renewable energy jobs in 2015. Solar photovoltaic was the top renewable energy employer worldwide with 2.77 million jobs, followed by liquid biofuels with 1.68 million jobs and wind power at 1.08 million jobs. Solar heating and cooling was in fourth place 939,000 jobs, followed by solid biomass with 822,000 jobs, biogas with 382,000 jobs, small hydropower with 204,000 jobs, geothermal energy with 160,000 and concentrating solar power (CSP) with 14,000 jobs.

According to the report, global employment in liquid biofuels declined 6 percent in 2015, reaching 1.68 million. The decline is attributed to mechanization in countries such as the U.S. and Brazil, along with falling production in others, such as Indonesia. Liquid biofuels jobs increased in the European Union, Malaysia and Thailand.

Brazil has the largest liquid biofuels workforce, with 821,000 jobs. Reductions of approximately 45,000 jobs in the country’s ethanol industry due to ongoing mechanization of sugarcane harvesting were partially offset by job growth in biodiesel. Even with reduced ethanol employment in Brazil, production increased in 2015. Employment also declined 2 percent in the U.S. despite an increase in both ethanol and biodiesel production. Biofuel employment in the EU increased 8 percent in 2014, and the report indicates continued growth in production last year likely resulted in additional job creation. Liquid biofuels employment, however, dropped significantly in Indonesia, due to the collapse of biodiesel exports. According to the report, IRENA estimates Indonesia’s biofuel employment was at 94,800 jobs last year, down from 223,000 jobs in 2014.

In the report, IRENA notes there is considerably less information available for certain renewable technologies, including biogas, and biomass, which can lead to an underestimation of global employment.

The report estimates 241,000 solid biomass jobs in China, with 152,000 jobs in the U.S., 58,000 jobs in India, 49,000 jobs in Germany, 48,000 jobs in France, and 214,000 jobs in the remainder of the EU. For biogas, the report estimates 209,000 jobs in China, 85,000 jobs in India, 9,000 jobs in Bangladesh, 48,000 jobs in Germany, 4,000 jobs in France, and 14,000 jobs in the remainder of the EU.

A full copy of the report can be downloaded from IRENA website.