The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) released a report on Wednesday, providing the latest employment figures of the renewable energy sector and insight into the factors affecting the renewable labour market.
The report, Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2017, found more than 9.8 million people were employed in the sector in 2016, which could rise to 24 million by 2030.
According to IRENA director-general Adnan Z. Amin, falling costs and enabling policies have driven up investment and employment in renewable energy worldwide since IRENA’s first annual assessment in 2012, when around seven million people were working in the sector.
“In the last four years, for instance, the number of jobs in the solar and wind sectors combined has more than doubled,” Amin said.
“Renewables are directly supporting broader socio-economic objectives, with employment creation increasingly recognised as a central component of the global energy transition.
“As the scales continue to tip in favour of renewables, we expect that the number of people working in the renewables sector could reach 24 million by 2030, more than offsetting fossil-fuel job losses and becoming a major economic driver around the world.”
Clean Energy Council spokesperson Mark Bretherton told Pro Bono News that renewable energy projects could also create employment across Australia.
“Renewable energy is extremely popular and is a change which the majority of Australians want. The good news is that renewable energy projects create jobs, investment and additional work for contractors, equipment suppliers and local businesses such as cafes, motels, backhoe operators and pie vans,” Bretherton said.
“There is a lot of potential for renewable energy to create employment across Australia, particularly in regional areas of the country where most wind and solar projects are located.
“It has taken a while, but we are almost mid-way through a year that is set to be the biggest in the history of the Australian renewable energy industry.
“More than 30 major projects are either underway or will start in 2017, creating more than $7.5 billion worth of investment and more than 4,100 direct jobs. And this is just the beginning, with these projects creating many indirect jobs as well through flow-on benefits.”
According to the IRENA report, solar photovoltaic (PV) was the largest employer in 2016 globally, with 3.1 million jobs — up 12 per cent from 2015.
China, Brazil, the United States, India, Japan and Germany accounted for most of the renewable-energy jobs.
In the United States, jobs in the solar industry increased 17 times faster than the overall economy, growing 24.5 per cent from the previous year to more than 260,000.
It comes as Australia has moved up the rankings of the most attractive countries for renewable energy investment.
EY’s Renewable Energy Attractiveness Index – published twice a year – put Australia at number five across the globe, which marks a big jump from number 11 in October last year.
China and India took the top two placings, displacing the US which has slipped since the election of Donald Trump. Germany was fourth ahead of Australia, with Chile, Japan, France, Mexico and the UK making up the rest of the top 10.
Bretherton said Australia had a national large-scale Renewable Energy Target which provided an “extra incentive” to build the cheapest kind of renewable energy – which at the moment means wind and solar power.
“Renewable energy such as wind and solar is now the cheapest kind of power it is possible to build right now – less than new gas plants, and much less than new coal power plants,” he said.
“Solar in particular is now almost half what it was just a couple of years ago thanks to targeted support from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
“Australia’s major power companies declared earlier this year that new coal plants are ‘uninvestable’, and this sentiment is echoed by many fund managers who are reluctant to take a long-term investment risk on coal for a large variety of reasons.”