11 million people were employed in renewable energy worldwide in 2018 according to the latest analysis by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
This is in comparison to the 103 million in 2017. As more and more countries manufacture, trade and install renewable energy technologies, the latest Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review finds that renewables jobs grew to their highest level despite slower growth in key renewable energy markets including China.
Until recently, the renewable energy industry has maintained a relatively concentrated distribution of jobs to very specific major markets. These include countries such as China the US and the EU. In more recent times, East and Southeast Asian nations have slowly emerged alongside China as key exporters of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels.
Countries including Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam were responsible for a greater share of growth in renewables jobs last year, which allowed Asia to maintain a 60 percent share of renewable energy jobs worldwide.
PV and wind remains the most dynamic forms of renewable energy. Accounting for one-third of the total renewable energy workflow, solar PV retains the top spot in 2018, ahead of liquid biofuels, hydropower and wind power. Geographically, Asia hosts over three million PV jobs, nearly nine-tenths of the global total.
The majority of the wind industry’s activity still occurs on land and is responsible for the bulk of the sector’s 1.2 million jobs. China alone accounts for about 44 per cent of the global wind employment. Offshore wind could be an especially attractive option for leveraging domestic capacity and exploiting synergies with the oil and gas industry, states the IRENA report.
Germany has the largest renewable energy workforce in Europe, with nearly 291,000 jobs. German firms are leaders in onshore and offshore wind development, serving domestic and export markets, and employed close to 141,000 people in 2017.
Solar PV employment has experienced massive expansion, especially from India, Southeast Asia and Brazil. Despite some lost jobs in China, the US, Japan and the EU, the industry still retains its top spot in the renewable energy workforce.
An increase in biofuel output has also resulted in rising job availabilities. The sector received a 6 per cent increase to 2.1 million jobs. Brazil, Colombia and Southeast Asia have labour-intensive supply chains where informal work is prominent, whereas operations in the US and the EU are far more mechanised, contributing to less jobs and manpower usage.
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.
Asia’s renewable energy capacity has nearly doubled in the last five years, making up a significant chunk of the global supply of 2,351 gigawatts. This is roughly a third of the world’s total energy and this number is growing all the time as more renewable energy enters the system and older fuel sources are phased out. Over 2018, Asia accounted for 61 per cent of new renewable energy installations, proving the region is a powerhouse for development and implementation.