Nearly 10 million people were employed in the renewable energy sector last year, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) said on Wednesday.
IRENA's report, Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2017, states that global renewable energy employment in 2016, excluding large hydropower, hit 8.3 million. If direct employment in large hydropower is included, that figure climbs to 9.8 million.
"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," Adnan Z. Amin, IRENA's director-general, said in a statement.
"In the last four years, for instance, the number of jobs in the solar and wind sectors combined has more than doubled," Amin added.
The report showed that solar photovoltaic was the biggest employer last year, accounting for 3.1 million jobs, up 12 percent compared to 2015. The wind sector represented 1.2 million jobs, while biofuels were responsible for 1.7 million jobs.
Amin went on to state that the potential for renewable jobs was significant. "As the scales continue to tip in favor 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."
Globally, IRENA said that 62 percent of jobs were to be found in Asia. In China alone, 3.64 million people were working in renewables last year, an increase of 3.4 percent.
Africa was another area where utility scale developments had made "great strides", IRENA said, although off-grid solutions were also playing a key role.
"In some African countries, with the right resources and infrastructure, we are seeing jobs emerge in manufacturing and installation for utility-scale projects," Rabia Ferroukhi, head of IRENA's Policy Unit and deputy director of Knowledge, Policy and Finance, said.
"For much of the continent however, distributed renewables, like off-grid solar, are bringing energy access and economic development," Ferroukhi added. "These off-grid mini-grid solutions are giving communities the chance to leap-frog traditional electricity infrastructure development and create new jobs in the process."