Indicator: Employment in the renewable energy sector

After a strong increase since 2000, employment has been declining since 2012 due to the sharp job losses in solar energy. There was a slight increase from 2015 to 2016. Most jobs were created in the wind energy and biomass sectors. Between 2016 and 2019 there were sharp declines.Click to enlarge
Number of employees in the renewable energy sector
Source: https://www.erneuerbare-energien.de/EE/Redaktion/DE/Downloads/zeitreihe-der-beschaeftigungszahlen-seit-2000.html Figure as PDF

Table of Contents

 

At a glance

  • 299,700 people worked in the renewable energy sector in 2019. That is almost three times as much as in 2000.
  • After strong employment growth until 2011, there has been a clear decline since.
  • This was initially due to the widespread collapse of the domestic photovoltaic industry.
  • Since 2017, production in wind energy has also been declining heavily. The main drivers are losses in foreign trade and unfavorable conditions at national level.
 

Environmental importance

The use of renewable energies – such as wind, solar, geothermal, hydro and biomass – is an indispensable contribution to climate protection and resource conservation. The increase in the use of renewable energies not only benefits climate protection, but also creates jobs in Germany, especially if the production of the plants takes place there.

The indicator shows the development of the number of people employed in the renewable energy sector in Germany: for planning tasks, for the production and maintenance of plants, for administration or for research, development and marketing. If renewable energies are used more intensively, this is also associated with a displacement of other energy production systems such as coal, oil and gas and thus a reduction in jobs in other economic sectors. However, model calculations and scenario analyses show that increasing the share of renewable energies also has a positive net effect on the labour market (Oehlmann et al. 2019).

 

Assessing the development

Between 2000 and 2019, the number of jobs in the renewable energy sector has almost tripled. There was a large increase until 2011, since then employment in the renewable energy sector has steadily decreased. In 2019, the figure was around 299,700 people. Biomass now accounts for the largest share.   

This was caused initially by the slump in domestic production in the most important sub-sector of the solar industry, photovoltaics. Most of it migrated to other countries – in particular to China. Wind energy maintained a steady upward trend and saw an increase in employment up until 2016. In 2017, however, there was a sharp decline in the number of employees, which continues to this day. The main drivers for this are significant losses in foreign trade and a dramatic decline in newly installed wind turbines in Germany. Accordingly, the net capacity of newly installed onshore wind turbines fell from 4,891 MW in 2017 to 2,273 MW in 2018 and only 886 MW in 2019 (UBA 2020, in German only). For 2020, there are signs of a slight recovery in the net addition of new onshore wind turbines (UBA 2021, in German only). The other renewable energy sectors (biomass, hydropower, geothermal energy) showed only minor changes in employment.

 

Methodology

It is not easy to determine how many people are employed in the renewable energy sector from statistics alone. For this purpose, sophisticated estimation methods have been developed based on input-output calculations, for example. The methods and the current results are described in detail in a study commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (O'Sullivan et al. 2019, in German only).

More detailed information: „Beschäftigung und Umweltschutz" (in German only).