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Renewable energy sector employed 9.8 million worldwide in 2016: report

According to a report by Abu Dhabi based IRENA, solar was the largest renewable industry worldwide in 2016, employing 3.1 million; China, the U.S., India, Japan, Germany and Brazil led the world in renewable jobs


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The renewable sector inched toward 10 million workers worldwide last year. Solar is the largest segment within the fast-growing industry. PHOTO: Getty Images/LL28

Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.—More than 9.8 million people were employed in the renewable energy sector in 2016, according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

IRENA is an intergovernmental organization headquartered in Abu Dhabi which promotes renewable energy.

The advocacy group’s latest report, Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2017, provides employment figures for the renewable energy sector and explores factors affecting the renewables labour market.

“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. In the last four years, for instance, the number of jobs in the solar and wind sectors combined has more than doubled,” said IRENA director-general Adnan Z. Amin.

Amin continued, “As the scales continue to tip in favour 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.”

Here’s how the report’s findings break down for 2016:

  • China, Brazil, the United States, India, Japan and Germany accounted for most of the world’s renewable energy jobs. In China for example, 3.64 million people worked in renewables in 2016.
  • Solar photovoltaic was the largest employer in 2016, with 3.1 million jobs — up 12 per cent from 2015 — mainly in China, the U.S. 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 up to 1.2 million jobs.
  • Brazil, China, the U.S. and India led the way in bioenergy. Biofuels accounted for 1.7 million jobs in 2016, and there were 0.7 million jobs in biomass and 0.3 million in biogas.
  • Large hydropower employed 1.5 million.
  • Globally, 62 per cent of renewables jobs are located in Asia. Installation and manufacturing jobs continue to shift to the region, particularly Malaysia and Thailand.
  • 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 renewables jobs.

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