Recruiting Daily Advisor recently looked at the industry with the most job openings, and health care certainly owns that title. But another industry holds the top spot for most new jobs, and that industry is renewable energy.
In fact, the fastest growing occupation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), is wind turbine service technician, with a projected 10-year growth rate of more than double any other position on the list.
Sun and Wind
The U.S. renewable energy sector employed approximately 806,000 people in 2016, due largely to new jobs in solar and wind, according to a report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), an intergovernmental organization that promotes adoption and sustainable use of renewable energy.
The solar field added workers almost 17 times faster than the overall economy, and as November 2016 was up nearly 25 percent compared to the previous year.
Most of the solar jobs were in solar photovoltaic (PV), more than half of which were in panel installation. But there were also gains in panel manufacturing, project development, and sales and distribution, along with other categories like research and development.
U.S. solar employs women as well as men, and the number of women in the field is growing. In 2016, women represented 28 percent of the overall solar labor force, up from 13 percent in 2013. In some occupational fields, the percentage of women is even higher; in sales and distribution, for example, it was nearly 34 percent in 2016.
Wind employment in the United States increased by 28 percent in 2016, according to the IRENA report, and U.S. manufacturing jobs in wind grew by 15 percent.
Energy and Employment
Although solar and wind are the most frequently mentioned forms of renewable energy, the industry includes hydropower and bioenergy.
Bioenergy includes liquid biofuels, solid biomass, and biogas.
Worldwide, jobs in all fields employed approximately 9.8 million people in 2016.
China leads the way in renewable energy jobs; Brazil is a distant second, followed by the United States, in third place. Proportionate to country size, however, renewable energy employment in Germany and Japan is noteworthy.
It is also important to note that when comparing the European Union to the United States, there is a stark difference in employment numbers. In 2016, the European Union employed nearly 49 percent more people in renewable energy than the United States.
Going forward, U.S. employment in renewable energy depends on various factors, including government support. In what may be a sign of continued job growth, the U.S. Department of Energy website, which was recently revamped, includes information about renewable energy and its benefits.