Solar PV Power Employed 3 Million+ People In 2016

Jobs in solar power and renewables

Solar powers  job creation

A new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency  (IRENA) reveals solar photovoltaic (PV) power was the largest employer in the renewable energy sector in 2016, with 3.095 million jobs – up 12% from 2015.

IRENA states the growth came mainly from China, which accounted for half the jobs (1.96 million), the United States (242,000 jobs, +24%) and India (121,000 jobs, + 17% ). Solar PV employment decreased for the first time in Japan, and a decline continued in the European Union.

Globally, 62 per cent of solar PV jobs are located in Asia, with manufacturers increasingly shifting production operations to the region.

IRENA states the number of jobs in the solar power and wind energy sectors combined has more than doubled in the last 4 years. Wind power continued to experience a healthy increase in employment last year, with 1.2 million jobs; up 7% on 2015.

Overall, renewable energy employed 9.8 million people globally last year – a 1.1% increase over 2015. Sectors that saw a decline were solar heating and cooling and large hydropower.

Renewable energy jobs - country breakdown

IRENA says while gender discrimination in renewable energy employment seems less pronounced than in the energy sector in its entirety, challenges in equal opportunity employment and promotion remain.

Renewables are certainly helping reinvigorate the US economy. The sector employed 777,000 people in 2016; adding workers almost 17 times as fast as the overall economy. More than half of all US solar jobs were in the installation sector; followed by manufacturing, project development, sales/distribution and other categories respectively.

“Renewables are directly supporting broader socio-economic objectives, with employment creation increasingly recognised as a central component of the global energy transition,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin.

“As the scales continue to tip in favour of renewables, we expect that the number of people working in the renewables sector could reach 24 million by 2030, more than offsetting fossil-fuel job losses and becoming a major economic driver around the world”.

At least 440,000 people were laid off  in the global oil and gas industry in 2015 and 2016 states IRENA, and employment in the coal industry is also decreasing.

Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2017 can be downloaded here (PDF).

What About Australia?

Australia isn’t mentioned specifically in the report; however, annual direct FTE (full-time equivalent) employment in renewable energy activities in Australia was estimated at 11,150 in 2015-16 according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics; a decline from the previous year.

Interest in home solar power has rebounded since that time, spurred on partly by interest in battery storage, and large scale solar is gaining steam – so perhaps the next lot of Australian solar jobs figures from ABS will be more encouraging.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.


  1. Nice and very detailed research report. As solar is a green energy resource, it not only helps to create jobs in the market but also keep environment unaffected. Go for solar today.

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