Renewable energy employment has continued to develop since IRENA’s first annual assessment in 2012. Global renewable energy employment reached 10.3 million jobs in 2017, an increase of 5.3% compared with the number reported in the previous year. Labour productivity has grown in importance as renewable energy technologies have matured, processes have been automated, and economies of scale and learning effects have risen.
The Solar PV industry was the largest employer (almost 3.4 million jobs, up 9% from 2016). Expansion took place in China and India, while the United States, Japan and the European Union lost jobs.
Biofuels employment (at close to 2 million jobs) expanded by 12%, as production of ethanol and biodiesel expanded in most of the major producers. Brazil, the United States, the European Union and Southeast Asian countries were among the largest employers.
Employment in wind power (1.1 million jobs) and in solar heating and cooling (807,000 jobs) declined as the pace of new capacity additions slowed.
Large hydropower employed 1.5 million people directly, of whom 63% worked in operation and maintenance. Key job markets were China, India and Brazil, followed by the Russian Federation, Pakistan, Indonesia, Iran and Vietnam.
Employment remains limited in Africa, but the potential for off-grid jobs is high, particularly as energy access improves and domestic supply chain capacities are developed.
As the global transition towards a more sustainable energy system unfolds, the world’s renewable energy workforce will continue to expand. IRENA’s analysis suggests that jobs in the sector could rise from 10.3 million in 2017 to 23.6 million in 2030 and 28.8 million in 2050.