Jobs in Renewable Energy Expand in Turbulent Process
New analysis examines global trends in employment in the renewable
Jul 3, 2014 - renewableenergyworld.com
D.C. - July 3, 2014 (Investorideas.com renewable energy stocks newswire) There
may now be as many as 6.5 million direct and indirect jobs in renewable energy,
according to updated data from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
Earlier assessments had put the global estimate at 2.3 million jobs in 2008
(United Nations Environment Programme) and at 5 million jobs in 2012 (International
Labour Organization). Although these estimates suggest a strong expansion in
employment in renewable energy, the figures also represent successive efforts
to broaden data collection across countries and sectors, write Worldwatch Senior
Researcher Michael Renner and IRENA's Rabia Ferroukhi, Arslan Khalid, and Alvaro
Lopez-Peña in the Worldwatch Institute's latest Vital Signs Online trend
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The overall upward trend in renewable energy jobs has been accompanied by considerable
turmoil in some industries. Nowhere are the upheavals more noticeable than
in the solar photovoltaic (PV) sector, where intensified competition, massive
overcapacities, and tumbling prices have caused a high degree of turbulence
in the last two to three years, but they have also triggered a boom in installations.
Global PV employment is thought to have expanded from 1.4 million jobs in 2012
to as many as 2.3 million in 2013.
Solar PV has bypassed biofuels (ethanol and biodiesel) as the top renewable
energy job generator. Most of the 1.45 million biofuels jobs are found in the
growing and harvesting of feedstock such as sugar cane, corn, or palm oil.
This involves physically demanding manual work, and workers often contend with
oppressive workplace conditions. Processing of the feedstock into fuels offers
far fewer jobs, but the ones created are higher skilled and they pay better.
Employment in the next-largest renewables sector, wind power, is estimated
to run to some 834,000 jobs. Uncertainty about the future direction of policies
in several countries weakened job creation in this field in 2013, leading to
a sharp drop in new installations in the United States and to weak markets
in large parts of Europe and in India. In contrast, developments in China and
Canada were more positive.
Countries that are home to half of the world's population-China, members of
the European Union, Brazil, the United States, and India-account for the bulk
of renewable energy employment: 5.8 million direct and indirect (supply chain)
jobs out of 6.5 million worldwide.
Better information is necessary for a range of countries to generate a more
complete and accurate renewable energy employment picture. Attention is also
needed on the question of whether development of renewable energy leads to
job loss elsewhere, including in the conventional energy industries.
All in all, available information suggests that renewable energy has grown
to become a significant source of jobs. Rising labor productivity notwithstanding,
the job numbers are likely to grow in coming decades as the world's energy
system shifts toward low-carbon sources.
Country Highlights from the Report:
-China is the largest employer in the renewable energy sector. The latest
estimates by the country's National Renewable Energy Center suggest almost
jobs in the solar PV industry in 2013. Other major sources of renewables employment
provide close to 1 million jobs.
-European Union member states had more than 1.2 million renewable energy jobs
in 2012. Even though Germany suffered some job losses in 2013, the country
remains the dominant renewable energy employer in Europe, with about 371,000
jobs. Spain's renewables sector has been hit hard by economic crisis and a
series of adverse government policy changes. The country suffered a net loss
of 23,700 jobs between 2008 and 2012, or 17 percent.
-In Brazil, renewable energy is largely synonymous with sugarcane-based ethanol.
A factor of rising importance is the growing mechanization of sugarcane harvesting,
which has brought the number of direct jobs down from 460,000 in 2006 to 331,000
in 2012, even as ethanol processing jobs increased.
-In the United States, the number of wind and ethanol jobs has fluctuated,
but solar employment has been rising fast. In the wind sector, the stop-and-go
nature of the U.S. Production Tax Credit has affected employment, with the
92 percent drop in new wind installations during 2013 resulting in a decline
from 80,700 jobs in 2012 to 50,500 jobs in 2013. U.S. ethanol employment fell
in 2012 because of rising feedstock prices, reduced yields due to drought,
and lower demand, although conditions improved and employment stabilized in
2013. Solar employment was close to 143,000 jobs in 2013, a gain of 20 percent.
-In most other countries, the number of renewable energy jobs is still limited,
and often there is simply no reliable information at all.
For more information and to obtain a complimentary copy of "Jobs in Renewable
Energy Expand in Turbulent Process," please contact Gaelle Gourmelon at
About the Worldwatch Institute:
Worldwatch is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C.
that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. The Institute's State
of the World report is published annually in more than a dozen languages. For
more information, visit www.worldwatch.org.
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