Green jobs boost: China leads way as renewable energy employment set to top 28 million by 2050
The big picture
The number of jobs being created through renewable energy is on the increase, according to a report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena).
Last year, global renewable energy employment reached 10.3 million, a 5.3pc increase on the previous year.
While an increasing number of countries are deriving socio-economic benefits from renewable energy, employment remains highly concentrated in a handful of countries, including China, Brazil, the US, India, Germany and Japan.
Employment trends in the renewable energy sector are being shaped by a wide range of technical, economic, and policy-driven factors, the report found. China, in particular, is forging ahead and accounted for almost half of all renewable energy jobs last year.
Its share of employment is especially high in solar heating and cooling (83pc) and in the solar photovoltaic (PV) sector (66pc).
A factor behind the growing level of employment in Asian countries - which accounted for 60pc of renewable jobs in 2017 - is down to growing domestic deployment, as well as strong manufacturing capabilities, which are supported by government policies such as feed-in tariffs, auctions, and preferential credit and land policies, according to Irena.
PV was the largest employer, with 3.4 million jobs, up 9pc. Expansion in the PV sector took place in China and India, while the US, Japan and the EU lost jobs.
At home, analysis published by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland suggests we will achieve between 12.7pc and 13.9pc renewable energy by 2020 - falling short of the 16pc target.
In a "worst-case" scenario this will involve Government having to purchase renewable credits at a cost of some €90m or more.
The State also risks being hit with fines by the European Commission for failing to meet legally binding climate change targets.
Meanwhile, in 2016 the UK ranked second in Europe, behind Germany, for the number of workers employed in renewable energy jobs
Overall, approximately 118,000 British people were employed in the sector in 2015/16, according to the Renewable Energy Association.
The largest renewable employer in the UK is the area of wind power, followed by solar photovoltaics.
France completed the top three European countries for creating jobs, with 107,000 people employed in 2016.
The report finds that jobs in the sector could rise to 23.6 million by 2030, and 28.8 million in 2050.
"The role of renewables in the global energy system keeps expanding," Irena said. "This process is key to stabilising the global climate, avoiding employment degradation, and improving human health.
"As the global transition towards a more sustainable energy system unfolds, the world's renewable energy workforce will continue to expand."