The report, authored by Worldwatch researcher Michael Renner, estimates that about 2.3 million people work in renewable energy, either directly or in supplier industries. This includes at least 794,000 people working in solar power, 1 million in biomass and biofuels, 39,000 in small-scale hydropower, and 25,000 in geothermal. The report projects that these figures will grow substantially in the coming decades.
By comparison, the National Mining Association estimates that the coal industry alone employs 7 million people worldwide.But the coal industry has shed hundreds of thousands of jobs in China, the United States, Germany, Britain, and South Africa in the last decade or two due to automation and corporate consolidation, the report says, even as output rose. In the US, coal output increased by almost one-third over the past 20 years, even as employment has been cut in half. Jobs in natural gas and oil have also been steadily declining, the report says.
Jobs in wind, solar, and biofuels tend to be more labor-intensive than jobs in fossil fuels, writes Mr. Renner. Therefore, a transition to renewable energy would result in a net growth of jobs.
“Renewables are poised to tackle our energy crisis and create millions of new jobs worldwide,” said Renner in a press release e-mailed to me. "Meanwhile, fossil fuel jobs are increasingly becoming fossils themselves, as coal mining communities and others worry about their livelihoods."