A new report published by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) reveals that more than 8.1 million people worldwide are now employed by the renewable energy industry- a 5% increase from the 2014 figure of 7.7 million. This growth is significant as it stands in contrast to overall trends across the broader energy sector; the total number of renewable energy jobs worldwide rose in 2015 while jobs in the broader energy sector fell. According to IRENA director Adnan Z. Amin, “this increase is being driven by declining renewable energy 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”.
IRENA presented the statistics of clean energy sector employment through a regional and sectoral breakdown of the jobs. With almost 2.8 million jobs in manufacturing, installation, and operations/maintenance, Solar Photovoltaic technology was the largest renewable energy employer last year. It was followed by Liquid Biofuels, with 1.8 million jobs, and Wind Energy, with 1.1 million jobs. Wind Energy employment increased 5% from last count due to strong installation rates in China, the US, and Germany. In the United States alone, wind employment rose by 21%, marking a massive increase in the sector. Regionally speaking, with more than a third of the global renewable energy additions in 2015, China led global employment with 3.5 million jobs. Germany remained the European Union’s highest renewables employer- with more than 355,000 jobs, they employed more people than France, Italy, and the UK combined. The United States employed almost 800,000 people in the clean energy sector, with solar employment in the country increasing by 22%- 12 times faster than job creation in the national economy and far surpassing jobs in oil and gas. In Japan, recent gains in solar technology resulted in a 28% increase in employment in 2014.
IRENA’s report showcases the impressive gains the clean energy sector has made in recent years. Renewables, but in particular wind and solar, are being utilized on a larger scale worldwide, leading to global job growth in the sector. In addition to increasing employment levels, IRENA found that the renewable energy sector employs women on a larger scale than the broader energy sector, indicating greater inclusion for the voices of women in the clean energy transition. IRENA has predicted declining costs across the clean energy sector, making renewable technologies more accessible to communities across the globe. IRENA states that the cost of onshore wind power has declined by 12% every time global capacity has doubled, and predicts that by 2025, the average cost of electricity from solar and wind power technologies could fall by 2/3. Rising employment and declining costs in the renewables sector indicate increasing accessibility and prevalence of clean energy technologies, and a global acceleration towards achieving major sustainability and climate goals.