According to an International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) report, the renewable energy industry now employs 8.1 million people worldwide, with the solar sector alone employing nearly three million people – an 11 percent jump from 2015.
IRENA’s report comes just a week after several union representatives decided to approach the AFL-CIO, the main umbrella organization for American unions, with a serious allegation. What was it all about? The representatives expressed concern about renewable energy. They believe that the rise of renewable energy is a threat to the survival of the fossil fuel sector and subsequently to the jobs they support.
So, what logic do they have to back their complaint?
Well, they have used some Department of Labor stats in support of their argument that jobs in the oil and gas sector are declining at a rapid pace. While green energy jobs increased by six percent, employment in the oil and gas sector declined by 18 percent! Last year, the oil and gas extraction industry lost 17,000 jobs as compared to 2014. They also maintained that various fossil fuel regulations and increasing advocacy for the solar and other renewable energy are particularly behind the large-scale job-killings in these sectors.
Let’s check what the proponents of renewable energy had to say. They are pretty sure that the alternative energy sector will make up for the jobs lost in the oil and gas industries. The logic behind their statement? Data from the Solar Foundation’s National Solar Job Census 2015 which shows that the US solar industry has maintained a steady 20 percent growth rate for three consecutive years. In 2015, the sector employed nearly 209,000 workers, more than those engaged in oil and gas extraction. “By 2020, we expect more than 400,000 people to be employed in the solar industry,” Rhone Resch, President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association said recently in a press conference.
This massive solar growth was attributed in part to the drop in the solar energy generation costs, and in part to the improvements in battery storage technologies.
The total number of solar installations in the US has long crossed the coveted one million mark. Industry watchers predict a doubling of this number within a couple of years.
However, it will be worthwhile to mention here that growth has not been equal for all types of solar jobs – while the number of sales and manufacturing jobs remained steady over the past five years, installation jobs witnessed a significant surge. It increased from 43,934 jobs in 2010 to 119,931 in 2015.
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