Jobs in Renewable Energy Expand in Turbulent Process

Michael Renner | Jun 30, 2014

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), there may now be as many as 6.5 million direct and indirect jobs in renewable energy.This figure is an update of IRENA’s previous estimate of 5.7 million such jobs, which was published in December 2013.2 Earlier assessments by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2008 and by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in 2012 had put the global estimate at 2.3 million and 5 million, respectively.3 (See Figure 1.)

Although these estimates suggest a strong employment expansion, the figures are not strictly year-by-year comparisons but rather successive efforts to broaden the coverage of countries and to improve and refine data. Although they are based on an extensive data collection, data gaps remain and the underlying studies used in compiling the global estimates are inevitably of uneven detail and quality.4

The overall upward trend has been accompanied by considerable turmoil in some renewable energy industries—a reflection of fluctuations in costs, prices, and investments; increasing labor productivity; regional shifts; and waves of industry consolidation and realignment.5 Austerity measures in the wake of the world economic crisis have also played a critical role.6 Furthermore, uncertainties or frequent changes in government policies do not favor job creation.7

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