There were 9.8 million jobs in the renewable energy sector globally in 2016, according to the latest report from the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Job growth has steadily increased since IRENA first started measuring employment in 2012, and the agency expects the it to start accelerating.

“Falling costs and enabling policies have steadily driven up investment and employment in renewable energy worldwide since IRENA’s first annual assessment in 2012, when just over seven million people were working in the sector,” IRENA director-general Adnan Amin said.

“In the last four years, for instance, the number of jobs in the solar and wind sectors combined has more than doubled.”

The numbers were a 1.1 per cent increase on 2015, though jobs in renewables excluding hydro rose 2.8 per cent to 8.3 million.

Mr Amin said employment in renewables was expected to grow to 24 million by 2030 if countries moved to meet climate targets, which would more than offset expected job losses in the highly automated fossil fuel industries. 

“Renewables are directly supporting broader socio-economic objectives, with employment creation increasingly recognised as a central component of the global energy transition,” he said.

The report said the boom in jobs along different segments of the value chain necessitated “significant efforts in training and education” to provide the labour market with the skills needed. 

Most of the growth has been in Asia, which accounts for 62 per cent of all renewable jobs, with many manufacturing jobs shifting to Thailand and Malaysia, which have become global hubs for solar PV module fabrication.

Solar PV was the largest employer, with 3.1 million jobs, growing by 12 per cent, with most growth in China. New capacity surpassed 2015 levels by about 50 per cent to reach 71 gigawatts.

In the US, jobs in solar – which now employs more people than coal – increased 17 times faster than the overall economy, growing 24.5 per cent from 2015 to a total of 260,000 jobs.

However, some markets were not so strong, with a 20 per cent decline in Japanese jobs caused by slowing installation rates, as well as a 22 per cent decline in the EU due to falling installations rates as well as dampened module manufacturing rates, mainly caused by cheaper Chinese modules.

Liquid biofuels was the second highest employing sector, with 1,724,000 jobs, a two per cent increase. Most jobs were in Brazil, which employs 783,000 people.

“Most of these jobs are generated in the agricultural value chain – in planting and harvesting various types of feedstock,” the report said. “Fewer jobs, though often better-paid ones, are found in the construction of fuel processing facilities and in O&M of existing plants.”

Wind jobs grew by seven per cent, many spurred by new installations in the US, Germany, India and Brazil. In the US employment rose by 28 per cent to 102,500 as capacity expanded by 11 per cent and more manufacturing took place domestically.

“Wind energy employment is likely to increase with continued deployment,” the report said. “An accelerated ramp up in wind energy deployment in line with global climate imperatives can lead to around three million jobs in the sector by 2030, compared with the current level of 1.2 million, and four million by 2050. 

There were some sectors that struggled, however.

Solar heating and cooling jobs decreased by 12 per cent to 800,000, due to slowdown in China, Brazil and the EU.

Unfortunately, Australia was not chosen as one of the countries in which a deep dive was taken, so no local figures or insights were provided.

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