Green Jobs are on The Rise, and They’re Moving to Asia

Wind Turbine over Works Yard

By Maura Forrest

May 28, 2015

The number of jobs in renewable energy is increasing rapidly across the globe, and more and more of those jobs are appearing in Asia.

More than 7.7 million people are now working in the clean energy sector, according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). That’s up 18 per cent from last year.

Solar power is the largest clean energy employer, supplying 2.5 million jobs worldwide. Liquid biofuels account for another 1.8 million jobs, and wind and large hydropower projects each employ over one million people.

The five countries that have created the most renewable energy jobs are China, Brazil, the United States, India, and Germany. But there is now a marked geographical shift in the creation of renewable energy jobs from west to east.

“We are seeing the widest spread of employment through renewable energy this year,” said Adnan Z. Amin, IRENA’s director-general, in a press release. “Five of the 10 countries with the most renewable energy jobs are now located in Asia.”

China created 3.4 of the 7.7 million jobs included in this study. In fact, the European Union and the U.S. are now responsible for just 25 per cent of global clean energy jobs, down from 31 per cent in 2012.

The report also notes that manufacturing jobs, particularly for wind turbines and solar panels, are increasingly moving to Asia. Japan, Bangladesh, and Indonesia all have fast-growing clean energy markets.

Clean energy jobs in Canada are also on the rise, though Canada was not specifically mentioned in this report. A 2014 report found that the number of Canadian clean energy jobs now surpasses the number of jobs in the oil sands. In 2012, the clean energy sector employed 23,700 people, while the oil sands employed only 22,340.

The report listed Guelph, Yellowknife, and Vancouver as national leaders in renewable energy—on its own, Guelph has nearly 2,000 clean energy jobs. The study found that most new renewable energy jobs are being created by run-of-river hydro projects, wind energy, and biomass.

Despite that growth in jobs, Canada is still falling behind in its share of the global market for environmental goods. A new report from Analytica Advisors has found that Canada’s clean-tech exports are being surpassedby other countries, due to the absence of government support. 

Still, lower oil prices and the government’s recent commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 could set the stage for more growth in clean energy jobs and a better position for Canada on the global clean-tech market.