At the end of 2018, 10.98 million people around the world worked in the renewable energy industry, directly or indirectly, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency. Of those, 855,000 were in the United States.
For 2017, the comparable figures were 10.53 million worldwide and 786,000 in the US. So the increase from 2017 to 2018 was 4.3% worldwide and 8.8% in the US.
"Beyond climate goals, governments are prioritizing renewables as a driver of low-carbon economic growth in recognition of the numerous employment opportunities created by the transition to renewables," said Francesco La Camera, director-general of IRENA, in a news release.
"Renewables deliver on all main pillars of sustainable development—environmental, economic, and social. As the global energy transformation gains momentum, this employment dimension reinforces the social aspect of sustainable development and provides yet another reason for countries to commit to renewables."
IRENA is an intergovernmental agency that supports countries in transitioning to sustainable energy. It also serves as a platform for international cooperation toward that goal. It has 160 member states, including the United States. Another 23 states are in the process of joining.
The agency has been releasing annual reports on renewable energy jobs since 2012, when it estimated that direct and indirect renewable energy jobs totaled 7.28 million. The latest edition, Renewable Energy and Jobs—Annual Review 2019, includes these nuggets:
- Most renewable energy jobs—60%—were in Asia. China alone accounted for 4.08 million. The United States, with 855,000, was 4th among nations.
- The other top 5 nations/economic blocs were the European Union, with 1.24 million renewable energy jobs (291,000 in Germany alone); Brazil, 1.13 million; and India, 719,000.
- Of the 10.98 million total jobs, 3.61 million were in the solar photovoltaic (solar panel) segment. Two other solar technologies also contributed jobs: 801,000 in solar heating/cooling (using solar thermal energy directly for heating and cooling) and 34,000 in concentrated solar power (known as CSP; it uses mirrors or lenses to concentrate sunlight onto a small area). Wind power accounted for 1.16 million.
- Hydropower had the largest installed capacity of all renewables but was barely expanding. It employed 2.05 million people, mostly in operations and maintenance.
- The United States was the largest biofuels producer. Brazil was the largest biofuels employer, with 832,000 jobs (compared with 311,000 in the US).