Climate Action

Over 11 million people employed in the renewable energy sector, declares IRENA

The International Renewable Energy Agency, IRENA, has announced 11 million people were employed in the renewable energy sector worldwide in 2018.

  • 17 June 2019
  • Poppy Bootman

The International Renewable Energy Agency, IRENA, has announced 11 million people were employed in the renewable energy sector worldwide in 2018.

In their latest Renewable Energy and Jobs - Annual Review, IRENA has found the increasing number of countries and large-scale businesses installing and using renewable technologies have expanded the market for those employed in the renewable energy sector, increasing to 11 million in 2018.

Since 2017, the number of people employed in the renewable energy sector has increased by 0.7 million, now employing the highest ever total. This achievement is in spite of the slowing growth of renewable energy markets, particularly in China, IRENA have stated.

The workforce of renewable energy was found to have diversified in 2018, extending beyond the previous concentration of renewable markets in China, the United States and the European Union, to Eastern and South eastern Asian countries such as Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. Becoming primary exporters of solar photovoltaic panels, the increased investment in renewable energy ensured Asia’s share of renewable energy jobs worldwide to remain at 60%.

Director-General of IRENA, Francesco La Camera explained the employment figures: “Beyond climate goals, governments are prioritising renewables as a driver of low-carbon economic growth in recognition of the numerous employment opportunities created by the transition to renewables. Renewables deliver on all main pillars of sustainable development – environmental, economic and social. As the global energy transformation gains momentum, this employment dimension reinforces the social aspect of sustainable development and provides yet another reason for countries to commit to renewables.”

Solar photovoltaic accounts for one-third of the renewable energy employment, 90% of which is sourced in Asia. Liquid biofuels and hydropower are the next highest employment sectors, collectively providing over 4 million jobs worldwide.

The increase marks a positive upturn in the renewable sector, however whilst global employment opportunities may have increased, the UK has recently witnessed a downturn of renewable energy occupations.

The 2019 annual report from the union Prospect, covering much of the UK’s renewable energy sector, found in May that the number of jobs within the sector had dropped by almost a third between 2014 and 2017 after government cuts to incentives and support schemes.

However, in the journey towards the UK reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, the UK may require the UK’s employment capacity in renewables to increase and continue to contribute to the global increasing figure of clean-energy employment.

Read the full press release here.