WASHINGTON, May 24, 2017 - More than 9.8 million people were employed in the renewable energy sector in 2016 – up from just over 5 million in 2012, according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

“Falling costs and enabling policies have steadily driven up investment and employment in renewable energy worldwide since IRENA’s first annual assessment in 2012,” said the agency’s director-general, Adnan Z. Amin. “In the last four years, for instance, the number of jobs in the solar and wind sectors combined has more than doubled. 

“Renewables are directly supporting broader socio-economic objectives, with employment creation increasingly recognized as a central component of the global energy transition. As the scales continue to tip in favor of renewables, we expect that the number of people working in the renewables sector could reach 24 million by 2030, more than offsetting fossil-fuel job losses and becoming a major economic driver around the world,” Amin added.

IRENA’s report shows that solar photovoltaic (PV) was the largest employer in the sector in 2016, with 3.1 million jobs — up 12 per cent from 2015 — mainly in China, the United States and India. In the U.S., jobs in the solar industry increased 17 times faster than the overall economy, growing 24.5 per cent from the previous year to over 260,000.

New wind installations contributed to a 7 per cent increase in global wind employment, raising it to 1.2 million jobs. Brazil, China, the United States and India also proved to be key bioenergy job markets, with biofuels accounting for 1.7 million jobs, biomass 0.7 million, and biogas 0.3 million.

China, Brazil, the U.S., India, Japan and Germany accounted for most of the renewable-energy jobs. In China for example, 3.64 million people worked in renewables in 2016, a rise of 3.4 per cent. The IRENA review shows that global renewable-energy employment, excluding large hydropower, reached 8.3 million in 2016 and 9.8 million when hydropower is included.

The report finds that globally, 62 percent of the jobs are located in Asia. Installation and manufacturing jobs continue to shift to the region, particularly to Malaysia and Thailand, a region that has become a global center for solar PV fabrication.

In Africa, utility-scale renewable energy developments have made great strides, with South Africa and North Africa accounting for three-quarters of the continent’s 62,000 renewable jobs.

You can download the full report here.