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July 2016

More U.S. jobs in solar power than fossil fuels

For the first time, the number of U.S. jobs in solar energy has overtaken those in oil and natural gas extraction, says a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

More than 8.1 million people world-wide are now employed by the renewable energy industry, a five percent increase from last year, according to the IRENA report.

In the U.S., renewable energy employment increased six percent, driven by growth in wind and solar. Solar employment grew 22 per cent, 12 times faster than job creation in the U.S. economy as whole, surpassing jobs in oil and gas. Employment in the wind industry also grew 21 per cent.

The report, Renewable Energy and Jobs-Annual Review 2016, also provides a global estimate of the number of jobs supported by large hydro power, with a conservative estimate of an additional 1.3 million direct jobs world-wide.

"The continued job growth in the renewable energy sector is significant because it stands in contrast to trends across the energy sector," said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin.

"This increase is being driven by declining renewable energy technology costs and enabling policy frameworks. 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."

The total number of renewable energy jobs worldwide rose in 2015 while jobs in the broader energy sector fell, says the report. In the U.S., for example, renewable energy jobs increased six percent while employment in oil and gas decreased 18 percent. Likewise in China, renewable energy employed 3.5 million people, while oil and gas employed 2.6 million.

As in previous years, enabling policy frameworks remained a key driver of employment. National and state auctions in India and Brazil, tax credits in the U.S. and favorable policies in Asia have all contributed to employment increases. Countries with the most renewable energy jobs in 2015 included China, Brazil, the U.S., India, Japan and Germany. The solar photovoltaic (PV) sector remains the largest renewable energy employer world-wide with 2.8 million jobs (up from 2.5 million at last count) with jobs in manufacturing, installation and operations and maintenance. Liquid biofuels was the second largest global employer with 1.7 million jobs, followed by wind power, which grew five percent to reach 1.1 million global jobs.

"As the ongoing energy transition accelerates, growth in renewable energy employment will remain strong," said Amin. "IRENA's research estimates that doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix by 2030, enough to meet global climate and development targets, would result in more than 24 million jobs worldwide."

Solar PV is the largest renewable energy employer with 2.8 million jobs worldwide, an 11 percent increase from last count. Employment grew in Japan and the U.S., stabilized in China, and decreased in the European Union. Strong wind installation rates in China, the U.S. and Germany drove a five percent increase in global employment. to reach 1.1 million jobs.