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Energy jobs falling, but renewables see workforce grow to 8M: Study

An aerial view of the solar mirrors at the Noor 1 Concentrated Solar Power plant, outside the central Moroccan town of Ouarzazate, February 4, 2016.
Fadel Senna | AFP | Getty Images
An aerial view of the solar mirrors at the Noor 1 Concentrated Solar Power plant, outside the central Moroccan town of Ouarzazate, February 4, 2016.

Over 8.1 million people now work in the renewable energy industry, a 5 percent increase compared to the year before, according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

The report, titled "Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2016", found that in 2015 renewable energy jobs across the world increased, while jobs in the broader energy sector fell.

"The continued job growth in the renewable energy sector is significant because it stands in contrast to trends across the energy sector," Adnan Amin, director-general of IRENA, said in a statement Wednesday.

"This increase is being driven by declining renewable energy technology costs and enabling policy frameworks," Amin added. "We expect this trend to continue as the business case for renewables strengthens and as countries move to achieve their climate targets agreed in Paris."

IRENA's report comes several months after the historic COP21 summit in Paris, where 195 countries agreed to make sure global warming stayed below 2 degrees Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.


According to the report, solar PV (photovoltaic) employs 2.8 million people – an increase of 11 percent on the previous count – and is the largest employer for renewables. Liquid biofuels was the next biggest employer, with 1.7 million jobs. The report also stated that 1.1 million people are now employed in the wind energy sector, thanks in part to a raft of new installations in China, Germany and the U.S.

In the U.S., jobs in the wind industry increased by 21 percent, while solar jobs shot up by 22 percent, "surpassing jobs in oil and gas."

The news wasn't all positive, however. IRENA said that the number of jobs in large and small hydropower, liquid biofuels and solar heating and cooling fell because of "various factors" such as the removal of subsidies, increased mechanization and a fall in installations.

Amin was nevertheless positive with regards to the future. "As the ongoing energy transition accelerates, growth in renewable energy employment will remain strong," he said.

"IRENA's research estimates that doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix by 2030 – enough to meet global climate and development targets – would result in more than 24 million jobs worldwide," he added.