Jobs boom in renewable energy

Jobs in renewable energy are on the rise, with new data from IRENA revealing a global total of around 10.3 million jobs in 2017, a rise from the 9.8 million in 2016. The tally includes 3.4 million jobs in solar PV, which is the largest in the renewables category. The data also underscores an increasingly regionalised picture, “Highlighting that in countries where attractive policies exist, the economic, social and environmental benefits of renewable energy are most evident,” says IRENA’s chief.

The renewable energy industry created more than 500,000 new jobs globally in 2017, a 5.3 per cent increase from 2016, according to according to the fifth annual edition of Renewable Energy and Jobs Review launched just this week.

Solar PV employment has risen almost 9 per cent from 2016 following a record 94 GW of installations in 2017.

China was estimated to account for two-thirds of PV jobs – equivalent to 2.2 million – representing an expansion of 13 per cent over the previous year.

China, Brazil, the United States, India, Germany and Japan remain the world’s largest renewable energy employers, representing more than 70 per cent of all industry jobs globally, according to IRENA.

The bulk of manufacturing takes place in relatively few countries and domestic markets vary enormously. Sixty per cent of all renewable energy jobs are in Asia.

“Renewable energy has become a pillar of low-carbon economic growth for governments all over the world, a fact reflected by the growing number of jobs created in the sector,” said IRENA’s Adnan Amin.

“Fundamentally, this data supports our analysis that decarbonisation of the global energy system can grow the global economy and create up to 28 million jobs in the sector by 2050.”

Japan and the US followed China as the largest markets for solar PV employment in the world. India and Bangladesh complete the top five that accounts for around 90 per cent of global solar PV jobs.

Given the chart above, it appears Australia ranks below the UK, which is only just emerging from a prolonged gloomy period spanning three seasons in which the sun has barely made an appearance and when it does is cause for celebration. 

Australian Bureau of Statistics data estimates direct full-time equivalent (FTE) employment in renewable energy activities in Australia at around 14,820 in 2016-17, an increase of 3,680 in FTE employment (33 per cent) from the previous year (2015-16). This represents the highest level of FTE employment in renewable energy activities since 2012-13.

The increase in FTE employment in renewable energy activities was primarily attributed primarily to the increase in construction activity for large-scale solar PV and wind farms.

Large scale solar PV added 1,240 jobs and wind and additional 1,370, which together accounted for more than two thirds (71 per cent) of the increase.

Rooftop solar PV also saw an increase in installations, resulting in 860 additional full-time jobs in 2016-17, according to ABS data.

Rooftop solar PV remains the largest renewable energy sector with 6,430 full time jobs representing 43 per cent of total FTE employment in renewable energy in 2016-17.

Employment in the category has fluctuated over the years the ABS notes, however it has remained the largest single contributor since 2009-10, with the share peaking at 74 per cent in 2011-12.

Large scale wind, hydro electricity, and large scale solar PV facilities were the three largest contributors to total FTE employment related to renewable energy after rooftop solar PV in 2016-17.

Large scale solar PV experienced the largest increase in FTE employment between 2015-16 and 2016-17, increasing from 500 to 1,740 jobs.

All states and territories have seen an increase in FTE employment related to renewable energy generation in 2016-17. New South Wales and Queensland have seen the largest increases in total FTE employment, both increasing by over 1,000 FTE jobs. This was driven by construction of wind generation facilities in New South Wales and construction of large-scale solar PV facilities in Queensland.

South Australia has seen the largest proportional year on year increase in FTE employment (110 per cent), driven by construction work on large-scale wind generation facilities.

Together New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia accounted for 78 per cent of all renewable energy employment in Australia. 

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