Indicator: Employment in the renewable energy sector

Graph: 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. The years 2020 and 2021, however, recorded slight increases, 2021 marking the return to the level achieved in 2015.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

  • 344,100 people worked in the renewable energy sector in 2021.
  • Employment in the renewable energy sector reflects the development of the German market.
  • Strong employment growth until 2011 was followed by a pronounced decline that resulted from the widespread collapse of the domestic photovoltaic industry.
  • Only since 2019, employment has been slightly rising again.
 

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. Expanding renewable energies not only benefits climate protection and the labour market. It represents an essential contribution to the security of energy supply and reduces dependency on energy imports.

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.

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 2021, the number of jobs in the renewable energy sector almost tripled. In 2021, the figure was around 344,100 people. Biomass and wind power now account for the largest share.

This trend, however, was subject to fluctuations rather than following a pattern of continuous increase. 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 continued until 2019. The main drivers for this were 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). Employment in this sector slightly recovered in the following years 2020 and 2021. 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).