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Benchmark: U.S. Solar Job Growth Outpaces Traditional Energy Sector Employment

U.S. renewable energy employment rose 6% in the U.S. during 2015, largely surpassing job growth in traditional energy sectors such as oil and gas extraction and coal mining.

image via IRENA

Renewable energy employment in the U.S. increased by 6% in 2015, according to a report recently released by the United Arab Emirates-based International Renewable Energy Agency, or IRENA. The report, Renewable Energy and Jobs –Annual Review 2016, documents job growth in renewable industries for countries worldwide, including the U.S. Globally, more than 8.1 million people are employed in the renewable energy industry, a 5% increase year-over-year.

“This increase is being driven by declining renewable energy technology costs and enabling policy frameworks,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin, in a statement. “We expect this trend to continue as the business case for renewables strengthens and as countries move to achieve their climate targets agreed in Paris.”

image via IRENA

In 2015, China, Brazil, and the U.S created the most renewable energy jobs, with 3.5 million, 918,000 and 769,000 employed, respectively. In the U.S. alone, renewable energy jobs increased 6% while employment in traditional energy sectors like oil and gas decreased 18%. Among all, solar employment gained the most, up 22% year-over-year to a total number of 209,000 in 2015. This is 12 times faster than job creation in the U.S. economy, and significantly larger than the number in oil and gas extraction (187,200) and coal mining (67,929). Within solar jobs, solar photovoltaic takes up the largest portion (194,200), followed by solar heating/cooling (10,400) and concentrated solar power (4,200).

In 2015, nearly two thirds of solar industry jobs in the U.S. were in the residential market, 22% in the utility-scale segment, and 15% in commercial installations. The report expects such growth to continue due to the U.S. Congress' extension of the federal Investment Tax Credit through 2021.

image via IRENA

Additional highlights from the report:
  • Countries with the highest number of renewable energy jobs were China, Brazil, the United States, India, Japan and Germany. Jobs continued to shift towards Asia and the share of the continent in global employment increased to 60%.

  • Solar PV was the largest renewable energy employer with 2.8 million jobs worldwide, an 11% increase over 2014. Solar photovoltaic employment grew in Japan and the United States, stabilized in China, and continued decreasing in the European Union.

  • Bioenergy is a key employer, with liquid biofuels accounting for 1.7 million, biomass 822,000 and biogas 382,000 jobs. Biofuel employment declined by 6% due to mechanisation in some countries and low biofuel production in others

Read the full report here.

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