IRENA: Renewables employ 6.5 million globally
By Erin Voegele
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has published the results of a study that determined 6.5 million people were employed by the renewable energy globally last year. The report, titled “Renewable Energy and Jobs—Annual Review 2014,” highlights the important role that renewables continue to play in job creation and growth in the global economy.
According to the report, bioenergy jobs around the world are mainly concentrated in feedstock production. Liquid biofuels, biomass and biogas industries are
estimated to employ a respective 1.45 million, 834,000 and 264,000 people.
The report indicates that only the solar industry employs more people than the liquid biofuels industry on a global basis. According to the analysis, the largest share of the 1.45 million liquid biofuels jobs are related to the growing and harvesting of feedstock. Processing the feedstock into fuels also accounts for a portion of the employment. While the U.S. is the world’s largest biofuel producer, Brazil’s biofuel industry employs more people. However, as Brazil continues to mechanize feedstock production, the number of jobs is falling. The report estimates Brazil’s direct jobs in feedstock declined 7 percent from 2011 to 2012. European Union countries accounted for an estimated 108,000 liquid biofuel jobs in 2012.
According to the report, Europe was home to more than 1.2 million renewable energy jobs in 2012, with wind, solar photovoltaic and solid biomass industries being the largest employers. Together, Germany, France, Italy and Spain accounted for 60 percent of all European renewable energy jobs. In 2012, European wind and solid biomass posted significant job gains, while liquid biofuels, biogas and geothermal jobs were up only slightly. The biomass industry was also a significant employer in China in recent years.
According to IRENA, skill shortages around the world are creating bottlenecks to the expansion of renewable energy. In the bioenergy sector, employers indicated that R&D and design engineering positions, service technician jobs and training positions were difficult to fill.
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