Renewables 2011 Global Status Report: Jobs in Renewable Energy

By Bhavani Prakash

We presented a summary of Renewables 2011 Global Status Report (REN21) in the previous post. One of the things in the report that caught our attention is the section on “Jobs in Renewable Energy” . Figures in the ‘green’ sector are not always the easiest to come across, and the numbers have to be understood in the context of the underlying assumptions.

Jobs in Renewable Energies worldwide amounted to over 3.5 million in 2010, with China, Brazil and India making up for a large share of the global total employment in renewables. These are in manufacturing, installations, operations and maintenance as well as in biofuels feedstocks.

Here are the figures (rounded up as they are rough estimates) according to the report:

Industry                           Estimated Jobs Worldwide with selected national estimates

BIOFUELS                         > 1,500,000 (Brazil 730,000 for sugarcane and ethanol                         production)

WIND POWER                 ~     630,000 (China 150,000/ Germany 100,000/ United                             States 85,000/ Spain 40,000/ Italy 28,000/ Denmark 24,000/ Brazil 14,000                                     India 10,000)

SOLAR HOT WATER    ~     300,000 (China 250,000/Spain 7,000)

SOLAR PV                    ~     350,000 (China 120,000/ Germany 120,000/ Japan                                      26,000/ United States 17,000/ Spain 14,000)

BIOMASS POWER          ~         –              (Germany 120,000/ United States 66,000/ Spain                                                                                                  5,000)

HYDROPOWER               ~         –              (Europe 20,000/ United States 8,000/ Spain                                                                                                            7,000)

GEOTHERMAL                ~         –              (Germany 13,000/ United States 9,000)

BIOGAS                   ~         –               (Germany 20,000)

SOLAR THERMAL         ~         15,000   (Spain 1,000/ United States 1,000)

TOTAL ESTIMATED     >   3,500,000


As pointed out in our previous post, distinction isn’t made between sustainable biofuels and non-sustainable ones. The report does highlight sustainability issues with Solar PVs.

The numbers above have to be taken with a pinch of salt. The qualifications to the report mention that there are “significant uncertainties associated with most of the numbers presented here, related to such issues such as accounting methods, industry definition and scope, direct vs indirect jobs, and displaced jobs from other industries (net vs gross job creation).”

Nevertheless, despite the challenges in defining ‘green’ jobs and estimating numbers, it does show where renewable energy jobs are concentrated. The expectation according to REN21 is that jobs are expected to grow, although it may be tempered by rising automation and economies of scale in installation services.

The Renewables 2011 Global Status Report, supported by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) was one of the reports presented at the Clean Energy Expo held in Singapore from 1-3 November 2011. The event was organised by Sustainable Energy Association of Singapore (SEAS) and Koelmesse, as part of the Singapore International Energy Week.

Image Source: Flickr – Mike Weston  


Further links you may be interested in: 

GCA: Renewables 2011 Global Status Report

GCA: Where are the Green Jobs?

GCA: What is a Green Economy and What is the Potential for Job Creation?






  1. Great ideas and new, improved technology is coming to the renewable energy field at a fast pace. Even with the setbacks, alternative energy will soon overtake oil.

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