Indicator: Employment in the renewable energy sector

Between 2016 and 2018 there were sharp declinesClick to enlarge
Number of employees in the renewable energy sector
Source: DIW/DLR/GWS Figure as PDF

Table of Contents

 

At a glance

  • 304,400 people worked in the renewable energy sector in 2018. 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 unfavourable 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 2018, the number of jobs in the renewable energy sector has almost tripled. In 2018, the figure was around 304,400 people. This makes renewable energies an important factor for the labour market. Wind power accounts for the largest share, followed by biomass and solar energy. After 2011, employment declined significantly. 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. Between 2017 and 2018 the output of newly installed wind turbines on land in Germany fell by about 55 % (UBA 2019, in German only). This downward trend continued in 2019. 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).