The solar sector has been reminding everyone that it’s adding jobs to the American economy at 10 times the national average. A new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency adds more light to the wider global solar boom.
In 2013, IRENA’s Renewable Energy and Jobs: Annual Review 2014 estimates there were 6.5 million people, and rising, employed in the renewable energy industry worldwide. However, the superpowers up front were not named America or Canada. They would be leader China and runner-up Brazil, the largest employers by country.
Meanwhile, solar photovoltaic was the reasonable worldwide renewable sector leader, with 2,273,000 jobs worldwide. That’s ahead of liquid biofuels (1,453,000), biomasses (782,000) and biogases (264,000). The unsustainable support of biofuels like methane and ethanol left wind coming in an underwhelming third, with 834,000 jobs. Dirty fuels may be a hard habit to break, but perhaps we can be comforted by breaking them faster than before.
“Renewable energy is proving that it is no longer a niche,” IRENA director-general Adnan Z. Amin admitted in a statement. “It has become a significant employer worldwide.” Solar’s economic and political ascendance is having tectonic “shifts along segments of the value-chain,” Amin added, whose analysis “are crucial to developing policy that strengthens job growth in this important sector of the economy.”
The unlimited power of true renewable energy like solar and wind is beginning to dawn on government and industry. Last week, President Obama trumpeted photovoltaics from a Wal-Mart deep in Silicon Valley, hot on the heels of an alarming 2014 National Climate Assessment that pointed to solar and wind as essential combatants in the war against climate change. Meanwhile back East, his administration put the White House’s solar panels back up after nearly 20 years. But so far, the ripples from America’s official demand are mostly heating up employment markets overseas.
“Surging demand for solar PV in China and Japan has increased employment in the installation sector and eased some PV module over-supply concerns,” said IRENA’s Rabia Ferroukhi, lead author of the report. “Consequently some Chinese manufacturers are now adding capacity” thanks to a fivefold increase in photovoltaic installations from 2011 to 2013 in China alone.
North America needs to accelerate quickly to catch up. IRENA noted Canada’s wind industry for its “positive impulses,” while reminding Earth that the United States….remains the world’s largest producer of biofuels. It’s going to take America much more than methane and Canada much more than tar sands to realistically provide their citizens the kind of cleantech prescribed by National Climate Assessment’s heated warnings. Hopefully, IRENA’s green jobs report will give the continent something green to chew on.
This article appeared at Solar Energy