With the duel themes of “jobs and growth” dominating Malcolm Turnbull’s election campaign, the PM might be interested in the latest data on renewable energy jobs – and how much they’re growing, on the back of declining technology costs and the enabling policy frameworks of enlightened governments.
A report released on Thursday by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) puts the number of people now employed by the renewable energy sector, globally, at more than 8.1 million (not including large hydro, which accounts for 1.3 million direct jobs).
In terms of growth, that’s a healthy 5 per cent increase on last year’s jobs figures. Total global solar jobs grew by 11 per cent.
The report, Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2016, notes that the total number of renewable energy jobs worldwide rose in 2015, while jobs in the broader energy sector fell. In the US, for example, renewables jobs increased 6 per cent while employment in oil and gas fell by 18 per cent.
The report also notes that early research indicates that the renewable energy sector employed larger shares of women than the broader energy sector, making it a greener and more equitable employer.
Not surprisingly, solar PV is the biggest generator of employment in the sector, with 2.8 million jobs worldwide, an 11 per cent increase on last count.
Liquid biofuels was the second largest global employer with 1.7 million jobs, followed by wind power, which grew 5 per cent to reach 1.1 million global jobs. In the US alone, wind energy jobs rose by 21 per cent over the year.
“The continued job growth in the renewable energy sector is significant because it stands in contrast to trends across the energy sector,” said IRENA director general Adnan Amin.
Amin said the increase is being driven by declining renewable energy technology costs and enabling policy frameworks – examples of the latter included national and state auctions in India and Brazil, tax credits in the US and favourable policies in Asia.
“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,” he said.
On a country by country basis, China led renewables employment in 2015 with 3.5 million jobs, thanks to its claim to more than a third of the global renewable energy capacity additions in that year.
Other countries with the most renewable energy jobs in 2015 included Brazil, the US, India, Japan and Germany. Australia does not rate a mention anywhere in the 21-page report, but data supplied to RenewEconomy by IRENA shows that it estimates 20,500 renewable energy jobs in this country.
Most of these, 13,000, are in the solar PV business, with 2,000 in wind, 3,000 in biomass, with smaller numbers in hydro, biofuels, solar heating, geothermal, and wave energy.
“As the ongoing energy transition accelerates, growth in renewable energy employment will remain strong,” said Amin.
“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.”