Does Renewable Energy Create Jobs

does renewable energy create jobs

Renewable energy can be defined as energy generated from natural resources that are naturally replenished, such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat ( The major types of renewable energy include:

  • Solar energy, which converts energy from the sun into electricity or heat using photovoltaic panels or solar thermal collectors.
  • Wind energy, which converts the kinetic energy of wind into mechanical power or electricity using wind turbines.
  • Hydropower, which harnesses the energy of flowing water – from rivers or man-made reservoirs – to generate electricity using turbines.
  • Geothermal energy, which utilizes heat from below the earth’s surface to generate electricity or provide heating/cooling.
  • Bioenergy, which converts organic matter like plants, residues and waste into energy sources like biofuels.

These renewable resources can be replenished naturally within a human lifespan, making them sustainable long-term energy solutions unlike fossil fuels which take millions of years to form (

The Growth of Renewable Energy

Renewable energy has seen rapid growth over the past decade. According to a 2020 report from the USDA, renewable energy production nearly doubled from 2000 to 2018, going from 6.2 quadrillion Btu to 11.5 quadrillion Btu (source). The global renewable energy market value is projected to grow from $881 billion in 2021 to over $1.9 trillion by 2030, representing a compound annual growth rate of 8.4% (source).

Some key trends driving this growth include declining costs, supportive government policies, corporate sustainability goals, and increased consumer demand. Solar and wind energy in particular have become cost competitive with fossil fuels. Government incentives like tax credits and renewable portfolio standards have also spurred adoption. Many major companies have made commitments to source 100% renewable energy. And consumers are increasingly choosing clean power options.

The International Energy Agency predicts renewable energy will represent 90% of all global power capacity additions through 2026. With climate change driving the transition to clean energy, renewables are positioned for continued expansion worldwide.

Job Creation in the Renewable Energy Sector

The growth of the renewable energy industry has led to significant job creation globally. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), over 13.7 million jobs were created in the renewable energy sector in 2022 alone, bringing the total number of renewable energy jobs worldwide to over 14 million (Global renewable energy sector added 13.7 million jobs in 2022). The renewable energy transition is providing ample employment opportunities as economies move away from fossil fuels.

Most of the renewable energy jobs are created directly in the construction and installation of renewable energy systems like wind turbines, solar panels, geothermal plants, and biofuel facilities. Additional jobs are also created indirectly along the supply chain and in supporting industries. For example, manufacturing solar panels creates factory jobs, while transporting and installing the panels creates logistics and construction jobs.

Beyond direct renewable energy jobs, the industry stimulates employment in supporting sectors like legal, IT, and financial services. The renewable energy job market encompasses a wide range of skilled positions including engineers, project managers, technicians, construction workers, truck drivers, lawyers, accountants, sales representatives, and more.

According to a Forbes article, solar energy in particular is poised for massive job growth as costs continue to fall (Renewable Energy Job Boom Creating Economic Opportunity as Coal Industry Slumps). The article highlights that solar will be cost-competitive across most of the U.S. by 2025, supporting millions of new jobs. The renewable energy job boom provides economic opportunities as fossil fuel industries decline.

Case Study: Solar Energy

The solar energy industry has seen tremendous job growth in recent years. According to a report by CareerCast, solar energy jobs in the United States grew by 13.2% from 2011 to 2012. There are a wide range of occupations within the solar industry that are creating new employment opportunities.

Installation of solar panels is a major driver of job creation. Roofers, electricians, and other skilled tradespeople are needed to deploy solar systems on homes and businesses. Solar panel installers require specialized training to properly connect panels and optimize their output. There is high demand for these roles as more buildings add solar electricity and hot water capabilities.

Manufacturing positions are also being generated by the solar industry. Factories producing solar panels, inverters, racking systems, and other components have opened and expanded. Machinists, technicians, engineers, and production workers are needed to manufacture solar system parts. Domestic solar manufacturing can cut transportation costs and delays.

Once solar systems are deployed, qualified professionals are required to maintain them. Solar photovoltaic installers often provide maintenance and repair services. Larger solar farms use technicians and engineers to operate, monitor, and troubleshoot issues with systems. Proper maintenance keeps solar installations running at peak efficiency.

The fast-growing solar power sector will continue to create stable, well-paying jobs. Positions in installation, manufacturing, sales, project development, and support services are being added across the country as solar energy expands its market share.

Case Study: Wind Energy

The wind energy industry has experienced tremendous growth in recent years and has created a significant number of jobs globally. According to research, the number of direct jobs created by the wind energy industry increased from 0.63 million in 2010 to 1.254 million in 2020, not including indirect jobs created through manufacturing and supply chains (STATE OF WIND ENERGY IN THE WORLD: EVOLUTION, DISTRIBUTION AND JOB CREATION).

Wind energy creates jobs in multiple areas:

  • Wind turbine technicians – These workers are responsible for installing, maintaining and repairing wind turbines. It is one of the fastest growing occupations in the renewable energy sector.
  • Construction and development – Jobs are created in siting, excavation, road building and other infrastructure development for wind farms.
  • Manufacturing – Wind turbine parts like blades, towers, gearboxes and generators need to be manufactured. This creates jobs in factories and supply chains.
  • Operations and management – Wind farms require teams to oversee daily operations, logistics, administration and management.
  • Engineering and consulting – Jobs are created for civil, mechanical, electrical engineers and environmental consultants.

The American Wind Energy Association estimates there were over 120,000 wind energy jobs in the United States in 2021. Growth is expected to continue as more wind capacity is added.

Case Study: Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy creates a significant number of jobs in construction, operation, drilling, and more. According to a report by the Geothermal Resources Council, over 300 jobs have already been created by geothermal energy in Oregon (Geothermal Energy in Oregon: Job creation and Other benefits).

Construction of geothermal power plants is a major job creator. Hundreds of construction workers are needed to build the plant itself, as well as the wells and pipelines that connect the plant to the geothermal resource. Geothermal plants also create permanent operation and maintenance jobs to keep the plant running once it’s built.

Drilling geothermal wells employs drillers and drilling crews. Geologists and engineers are needed to identify resources and design the geothermal system. Manufacturing geothermal equipment like turbines and pumps supports jobs in those industries.

The geothermal industry directly employed over 7,500 Americans in 2020, according to the Geothermal Exchange Organization. Thousands more are employed indirectly supporting the industry. With continued growth projected, geothermal energy is poised to create many additional jobs.

Case Study: Bioenergy

Bioenergy, which utilizes biomass to produce energy, is a major source of renewable energy jobs. Bioenergy can come from a variety of biomass sources including crops, agricultural waste, and forestry byproducts. Jobs are created in collecting, transporting, and processing the biomass feedstocks.

According to a study by Rivero et al. (2021), bioenergy creates jobs in biomass production, operation of biogas facilities, biodiesel production, and more. It was estimated that in 2018 there were over 155,500 bioenergy jobs across the European Union [1]. Many of these are rural jobs related to biomass feedstock supply chains. However, some stakeholders perceive these jobs as low quality [1].

When comparing bioenergy job creation to other energy sectors, it can depend heavily on local conditions and feedstock sources used. According to an FAO report, the number of jobs per unit of energy produced can vary widely [2]. Overall, bioenergy does create many jobs, especially in rural areas, but quality and sustainability remain concerns.

The Economic Impact

The renewable energy sector has had a significant positive impact on the economy in terms of GDP growth, tax revenue, and job creation. According to a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the renewable energy sector contributed $880 billion to global GDP in 2020, a figure which is projected to rise to over $1.3 trillion by 2030 (IRENA report). In the United States alone, renewable energy generated nearly $200 billion in revenue in 2021, and the industry paid over $8 billion in state, local, and federal taxes (Forbes). The renewable energy industry has also been a major driver of GDP and job growth. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), every $1 million invested in renewable energy creates at least 25 new jobs, far more than investments in fossil fuels (IEA).

Challenges and Considerations

While renewable energy has many benefits, there are also some challenges and considerations to keep in mind (1):

  • Intermittency – Some renewable sources like solar and wind are intermittent, meaning their energy generation depends on weather conditions. This can make managing the electricity grid more complex.
  • Geographic constraints – The best locations for generating renewable energy are often remote or far from population centers that need the electricity. New transmission infrastructure may be required.
  • Upfront costs – Constructing renewable energy projects requires significant upfront investment, even though ongoing costs are low.
  • Storage – Cost-effective grid-scale energy storage is needed to store excess renewable generation for when the sun isn’t shining or wind isn’t blowing.
  • Land use – Some renewables like bioenergy crops or hydropower dams can conflict with land needs for housing, farming, or conservation.
  • Aesthetics – Some people object to how wind turbines or solar farms look in natural landscapes.

These challenges don’t preclude continuing to expand renewable energy, but they need to be considered in grid planning and project siting. Research, policy support, and technology advances can help address many of these limitations over time.


In summary, the transition to renewable energy is creating substantial job growth across multiple sectors. The solar, wind, geothermal, and bioenergy industries are all experiencing rapid expansion as costs decline and policies incentivize renewable development. This job growth is providing economic benefits, especially in rural areas where many renewable projects are sited.

While exact job creation numbers are difficult to quantify, it’s clear that millions of jobs already exist in renewables globally. Projections estimate the sector could employ over 40 million people by 2050. However, some challenges remain around skills gaps, geographic imbalances, and uneven policy support. Sustained investment and training will be vital to realize the full employment potential.

Overall, the outlook for renewable energy job creation is promising. With the right policies and workforce development, the renewables revolution can drive job growth for decades to come while building a sustainable energy system. Renewable energy is poised to be a major 21st century employer.

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