The number of people working in the renewable energy industry grew by 14 percent to 6.5 million people in 2013 with solar power leading the job growth.
The promising numbers come from the annual review by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and shows that – despite the economic crisis – the renewable energy industry is growing and has become a key player on the job market. “With 6.5 million people directly or indirectly employed in renewable energy, the sector is proving that it is no longer a niche, it has become a significant employer worldwide,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin.
China is emerging as the top employer in the renewable energy industry, followed by Brazil, USA, India, Germany, Spain and Bangladesh. The renewable energy sector which employs the most people is solar photovoltaic – employing 2.27 million people globally. Biofuels, the second largest renewable energy sector, trails far behind solar power with only 0.83 million jobs. Wind power, modern biomass and biogas follows.
The job growth is being driven largely thanks to the rapid decrease in the price of solar photovoltaics in recent years. Between 2011 and 2013, the installations of solar photovoltaics in China alone increased five-fold.
“Surging demand for solar PV in China and Japan has increased employment in the installation sector and eased some PV module over-supply concerns,” said Rabia Ferroukhi, heading the Knowledge, Policy and Finance division at IRENA and lead author of the report. “Consequently some Chinese manufacturers are now adding capacity.”
The wind industry has seen positive growth in Canada as well as in China in recent years, the study notes. The growth of offshore wind power is mainly being concentrated in Europe – particularly the United Kingdom and Germany. The study notes that wind progress in the U.S. is lagging behind because of “political uncertainty”. But while the U.S. lags behind in wind power it remains the largest producer of biofuels, followed by Brazil which is also the world’s largest biofuel employer.