Renewable Energy Jobs Reach 7.7 Million

There’s been a lot of news about the growth of the solar industry in the last few years. Given that prices keep falling, rooftop solar’s popularity keeps rising, and large businesses like giant tech companies are getting on board with using solar for their business, it’s expected that solar job growth should keep growing as well. The good news is, it has, and in a huge way. A new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) says that in 2014, there was an 18 percent rise in employment across the renewable energy industry, up from 6.5 million to 7.7 million people!

Solar Jobs Worldwide

Combine falling prices for solar and wind with expanded solar installation operations, and you’ve got job growth across all countries. The top 10 countries responsible for employment in the renewable energy sector include China, Brazil, the United States, India, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, France, Bangladesh, and Colombia.

As of right now, the solar photovoltaic industry is leading the way as the largest renewable energy employer worldwide. There’s over 2.5 million jobs globally in the solar industry, with solar heating and cooling plus concentrated solar power accounting for 3.3. million of those jobs. Unsurprisingly, two-thirds of those solar jobs are in China. Rounding out other areas of renewable energy, solar was followed by biofuels (with 1.8 million jobs) and wind power (over one million jobs — a first for wind energy).

Asia Leading Solar Growth

The strongest growth in renewable energy jobs was seen in Asia especially in manufacturing. China has continued to grow its domestic market, becoming the leader in manufacturing solar panels and top solar energy market. Malaysia and South Korea are other growing industrial hubs, but those markets right now are more limited, so it’s difficult to consider them part of the solar photovoltaic supply chain, according to the report. That said, solar panel manufacturing has moved in large part from Europe and North America to Asia, so it will be interesting to see how much larger the solar industry grows in those “limited” markets.

U.S. Solar Jobs

Meanwhile in the U.S., installations have been the biggest reason for solar job growth, followed by manufacturing. It remains to be seen whether or not the growth in manufacturing will keep its course or become a downward trend. Furthermore, the rise in solar jobs held by women has increased from 26,700 to 37,500, representing an increase from 18 to 21 percent in the total solar workforce.

So what’s next for the future of solar job growth? It may depend on who is manufacturing solar panels, and where. It may also depend on government support, such as extending the federal tax credit for homebuyers who purchase rooftop solar. Regardless of manufacturing, it’s a positive sign for solar overall that jobs continue on the up and up.

What do you think of the numbers in this report? What do you think needs to be done to accelerate solar job growth even more? Tell us in the comments!


Image Credit: Para via Wikimedia under a Creative Commons license

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