Report: China Now Has 9 Times as Many Solar Jobs as the US

Trump’s policies will only make it worse.

Staff members maintain solar panels in central China's Henan Province in June 2017.Li An/Xinhua/ZUMA

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.

The number of people employed in the renewable energy sector worldwide reached a record 10.3 million last year, according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency, an organization that supports countries transitioning to sustainable energy. The addition of half a million new renewable energy jobs was a 5.3 percent increase from 2016.

As in previous years, China, Brazil, the United States, India, Japan, and Germany took the lead in renewable energy employment. But the new figures reveal a continued shift toward Asian countries, particularly China, which alone accounted for 43 percent of all renewable energy jobs in 2017.

Note: Jobs in large hydropower are not included in the country totals except for data for the EU and Germany.

IRENA

While the total number of US solar jobs dropped by about 10,000 last year to 250,000, the first decline in seven years, China soared ahead. China accounted for twice as many solar jobs as every other country combined. The gap between the US and China is likely only to expand due to tariffs on imported solar cells and panels that the Trump administration imposed in January. The Solar Energy Industries Association estimates the tariffs will result in the loss of 23,000 more solar jobs in the US in 2018. The report notes that “previous trade duties imposed on Chinese solar products in 2012 and 2014 failed to raise US solar manufacturing.”

The solar photovoltaic sector was the largest employer in the renewable energy industry last year, employing 3.4 million people globally.

IRENA

“Renewable energy has become a pillar of low-carbon economic growth for governments all over the world, a fact reflected by the growing number of jobs created in the sector,” Adnan Amin, Director General of the IRENA, said in a press release. The organization estimates the renewable energy sector could reach 28 million jobs by 2050. But, he added, the economic, social and environmental benefits of renewable energy are most evident “in countries where attractive policies exist.”

  

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.