IRENA: Renewable energy industry employs 10.3 million

By Erin Voegele | May 17, 2018

The International Renewable Energy Agency has announced the renewables industry created more than 500,000 new jobs globally last year, a 5.3 percent increase from 2016.

IRENA released the fifth edition of its “Renewable Energy and Jobs—Annual Review” report on May 8, reporting that the number of people employed in renewable energy, including large hydropower, now stands at 10.3 million. According to IRENA, 2017 marks the first time the world has surpassed 10 million jobs in the sector.

Jobs in bioenergy, which includes liquid biofuels, solid biomass and biogas, reached 3.06 million jobs in 2017, up from 2.74 million in 2016.

The liquid biofuels industry alone employed 1.931 million, second only to solar photovoltaic, which employed 3.365 million people last year. When compared to 2016, worldwide employment in the liquid biofuels sector increased 12 percent, with most jobs generated in the agricultural value chain, which includes the planting and harvesting of feedstock. The solid biomass industry employed 780,000 people globally last year, while biogas employed 344,000. The municipal and industrial waste energy industries also employed 28,000.

According to the report, all major bioethanol producers, with the exception of Brazil, were estimated to have reached new output peaks in 2017. Brazil continued to have the largest liquid biofuels workforce, with 795,000 jobs, a small increase when compared to 2016. The U.S. had 299,000 jobs in the liquid biofuel industry.

The report shows that the U.S. had a biomass power capacity of approximately 16 GW in 2016. IRENA said that an employment-factor-based calculation suggests that direct and indirect employment in biomass power might be close to 80,000 jobs in the U.S., roughly the same level of employment as the previous year. U.S. jobs in the biogas sector reached approximately 7,000.

In the European Union, IRENA reports that the solid biomass industry supplies approximately 389,000 jobs. According to the report, biomass use is receiving growing policy support, but half of Europe’s jobs in this sector are in just six countries, including Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Poland and Finland. In the U.K., biofuels and solid biomass each contribute approximately 10,000 jobs.