Eleven million people are working in renewable energy worldwide in 2018 according to the latest analysis by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). This compares with 10.3 million in 2017.
Namely, the latest Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review found that renewables jobs increased to their highest level in spite of slower growth in key renewable energy markets including China.
The diversification of the renewable energy supply chain is also changing the sector’s geographic footprint.
Until now, renewable energy industries have remained relatively concentrated in a handful of major markets, such as China, the United States and the European Union. Increasingly, however, East and Southeast Asian countries have emerged alongside China as key exporters of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels
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In addition, countries such as Malaysia, Thailand and Viet Nam were responsible for a greater share of growth in renewables jobs last year, which enables Asia to maintain a 60% share of renewable energy jobs worldwide.
Specifically, solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind are the most dynamic of all renewable energy industries. Accounting for one-third of the total renewable energy workflow, solar PV retains the top spot in 2018, surpassing liquid biofuels, hydropower, and wind power. Geographically, Asia accommodates more than three million PV jobs, which is approximately nine-tenths of the global total.
As for the wind energy, most of its activity takes place on land and is responsible for the majority of the sector’s 1.2 million jobs. China accounts for 44% of global wind employment, followed by Germany and the US.
However, offshore wind could be an especially attractive option for leveraging domestic capacity and exploiting synergies with the oil and gas industry.
In summary, renewable energy jobs highlights are:
- The solar PV industry retains the top spot, with a third of the total renewable energy workforce. In 2018, PV employment expanded in India, Southeast Asia and Brazil, while China, the United States, Japan and the European Union lost jobs.
- Rising output pushed biofuel jobs up 6% to 2.1 million. Brazil, Colombia, and Southeast Asia have labour-intensive supply chains where informal work is prominent, whereas operations in the United States and the European Union are far more mechanised.
- Employment in wind power supports 1.2 million jobs. Onshore projects predominate, but the offshore segment is gaining traction and could build on expertise and infrastructure in the offshore oil and gas sector.
- Hydropower has the largest installed capacity of all renewables but is now expanding slowly. The sector employs 2.1 million people directly, three quarters of whom are in operations and maintenance.
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