New figures released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) have revealed that the renewable energy industry created more than 500,000 new jobs globally in 2017 and Australia’s renewable energy industry is continuing to grow.

According to the Renewable Energy and Jobs Annual Review 2018, Australia added a record 1.3GW of utility-scale solar PV capacity during 2017, which is estimated to have directly supported the employment of approximately 4,400 people during 2017.

Another 5,500 people were directly employed in the design, sale and installation of roof-top solar systems.

It states Australia is likely to install more than 3.5GW during 2018. 

The report said, “This uptick comes after a number of years during which Australia’s renewable energy employment had declined.”

According to the report, more than half a million jobs were created worldwide in the sector in 2017, taking the total number of people employed in renewables to more than ten million for the first time.

China, Brazil, the United States, India, Germany and Japan remain the world’s largest renewable energy employers, representing more than 70 per cent of all industry jobs globally.

Although growing numbers of countries are reaping the socio-economic benefits of renewables, the bulk of manufacturing takes place in relatively few countries and domestic markets vary enormously in size. Sixty per cent of all renewable energy jobs are in Asia.

“Renewable energy has become a pillar of low-carbon economic growth for governments all over the world, a fact reflected by the growing number of jobs created in the sector,” Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency, Adnan Z. Amin said.

“The data also underscores an increasingly regionalised picture, highlighting that in countries where attractive policies exist, the economic, social and environmental benefits of renewable energy are most evident.

“Fundamentally, this data supports our analysis that decarbonisation of the global energy system can grow the global economy and create up to 28 million jobs in the sector by 2050.”

The solar PV industry remains the largest employer of all renewable energy technologies, accounting for close to 3.4 million jobs, up almost nine per cent from 2016 following a record 94GW of installations in 2017.

The Clean Energy Council’s Executive General Manager – Industry Development, Natalie Collard, said the global statistics reinforce the unprecedented year the sector experienced in Australia in 2017.

“It is clear that the world is heading towards a clean energy future, and that creates a huge range of economic opportunities,” Ms Collard said.

“More than 50 projects in Australia are either actively under construction or have secured financial commitment, adding up to more than ten billion of investment and almost 5,500 new direct jobs across the country.

“The figures from IRENA show that more than 70 per cent of the global clean energy jobs are from just six countries – China, Brazil, the US, India, Germany and Japan – highlighting that we’ve really only scratched the surface when it comes to growth in renewable energy.”

Clean energy technologies such as solar and wind power have experienced big cost reductions this decade as a result of the national 2020 Renewable Energy Target (RET), to the point where they now offer cheaper power generation than new coal or gas.

The RET has been effective at encouraging greater competition between project developers to ensure we build the cheapest possible power generation.

The new low-cost renewable energy projects are expected to reduce the average household power bills by hundreds of dollars over the next few years. 

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