Solar Power now has more employees than either the Oil & Gas or Coal Extraction industries in the United States. The solar industry employed approximately 208,000 individuals at the end of 2015 versus 185,000+ in oil and gas, or 190,000 in coal extraction. Solar power employment is expected to grow an additional 15% in 2016 to almost 240,000 individuals. Globally, solar power now directly employs 2.8 million people as the largest renewable energy employer.
The report was put together by Bloomberg, who highlighted a big data release regarding global renewable energy jobs by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and complimented that with oil/gas/coal data by the US Bureau of Statistics. This information is very specific to the extraction portion of the process in oil/gas/coal – as total supporting jobs in other industries are very significant and sometimes hard to define (gas station counter worker?).
The Solar Foundation has been closely tracking US solar employment. Their site, The Solar Job Census, is a great tool for breaking down location of solar jobs and type of solar job.
This trend’s growth is, of course, aligned with significant increases in the total amounts of renewable energy that are being installed around the planet. The amount of energy produced by solar power has increased by 175X since the year 2000 globally – and according to Kurzweil that energy amount will double six times more in the next 14 years. To meet those needs by 2030, the United States will have to add at least 1 million jobs in solar power alone.
When we consider these employees, that solar power installed $20 billion worth of projects in 2015, that President Obama has referenced solar power in the last two State of the Union addresses we begin to understand solar power’s growing influence. This influence was proven in a political way in the fall of 2015 when the Solar Power Tax Credit was extended far into the 2020’s.
Indeed.com recently showed all energy jobs having fewer total job postings, but that solar power will soon overtake oil if those downward trends continued. The data shows that solar power jobs postings have dropped by 1.7% per quarter – while oil has dropped by a tremendous 12.7% per quarter. The timing of this fall aligns with the collapse of the price of oil.