The renewable energy industry now employs over 8.1 million people worldwide, up five per cent since last year, according to a new International Renewable Energy Agency report.

“The continued job growth in the renewable energy sector is significant because it stands in contrast to trends across the energy sector,” IRENA director-general Adnan Z Amin said.

“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.”

The Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2016 found that while employment in oil and gas decreased by 18 per cent in the US, renewables jobs increased by six per cent.

In China, the number of people employed in renewables jobs eclipsed those in oil and gas, with 3.5 million and 2.6 million respectively.

Select report findings:

  • Solar PV is the largest renewable energy employer with 2.8 million jobs worldwide, an 11 per cent increase from last count. Employment grew in Japan and the United States, stabilised in China, and decreased in the European Union.
  • Strong wind installation rates in China, the United States and Germany drove a five per cent increase in global employment to reach 1.1 million jobs. Wind employment in the United States alone rose by 21 per cent.
  • Jobs in liquid biofuels, solar heating and cooling, and large and small hydropower decreased due to various factors including increased mechanisation, slowing housing markets, the removal of subsidies and the drop in new installations.
  • With more than a third of the global renewable energy capacity additions in 2015, China led employment with 3.5 million jobs.
  • In the European Union, the United Kingdom, Germany and Denmark were the global leaders in offshore wind employment. Overall, job figures in the EU declined for the fourth year due to weak economic growth. Jobs fell three per cent to 1.17 million in 2014, the last year for which data is available. Germany remains the highest European Union renewables employer– employing nearly as many as France, the United Kingdom, and Italy combined.
  • In the United States, renewable energy employment increased six per cent driven by growth in wind and solar. Solar employment grew 22 per cent – 12 times faster than job creation in the United States economy – surpassing jobs in oil and gas. Employment in wind industry also grew 21 per cent.
  • Japan experienced impressive gains in solar PV in recent years, resulting in a 28 per cent increase in employment in 2014.
  • In India, solar and wind markets have seen substantial activity, as the ambitious renewable energy targets are translated into concrete policy frameworks.
  • Africa has also seen many interesting developments leading to job creation, including solar and wind development in Egypt, Morocco, Kenya and South Africa.
  • IRENA’s early research indicates that the renewable energy sector employed larger shares of women than the broader energy sector.