Solar Now Employs More than Oil & Gas in US

May 26, 2016



The number of U.S. jobs in solar energy overtook those in oil and natural gas extraction for the first time last year, helping drive a global surge in employment in the clean-energy business as fossil-fuel companies faltered.

Employment in the U.S. solar business grew 12 times faster than overall job creation, the International Renewable Energy Agency said in a report on Wednesday. About 8.1 million people worldwide had jobs in the clean energy in 2015, up from 7.7 million in 2014, according to the industry group based in Abu Dhabi.


Solar Power now has more employees than either the Oil & Gas or Coal Extraction industries in the United States. The solar industry employed approximately 208,000 individuals at the end of 2015 versus 185,000+ in oil and gas, or 190,000 in coal extraction. Solar power employment is expected to grow an additional 15% in 2016 to almost 240,000 individuals. Globally, solar power now directly employs 2.8 million people as the largest renewable energy employer.

The report was put together by Bloomberg, who highlighted a big data release regarding global renewable energy jobs by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and complimented that with oil/gas/coal data by the US Bureau of Statistics. This information is very specific to the extraction portion of the process in oil/gas/coal – as total supporting jobs in other industries are very significant and sometimes hard to define (gas station counter worker?).


A boom in solar and wind power jobs in the US led the way to a global increase in renewable energy employment to more than 8 million people in 2015, according to a report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena).

More than 769,000 people were employed in renewable energy in the US in 2015, dwarfing the 187,000 employed in the oil and gas sector and the 68,000 in coal mining. The gap is set to grow further, with jobs in solar and wind growing by more than 20% in 2015, while oil and gas jobs fell by 18% as the fossil fuel industry struggled with low prices.

Across the world, employment in renewable energy grew by 5% in 2015, boosted by supportive government policies and subsidies including tax credits in the US, although jobs in renewables fell in Europe. The growth was despite renewable energy subsidies being far outweighed by subsidies for fossil fuels, where jobs were lost.

Another contrast, according to the Irena report, is the greater proportion of women employed in renewable energy compared to the wider energy sector. Irena found 35% of renewable energy sector jobs were held by women, compared to 20-25% in the wider energy sector, although the agency noted the renewables percentage remains lower than women’s overall share in employment of 40-50% in most OECD countries.

Renewables employment fell in the European Union for the fourth year running, due to the Eurozone economic crisis and the cutting of subsidies and other support. The UK employed 112,000 people in renewables in 2015, according to Irena. The report said: “The UK became the continent’s largest [solar panel] installation market, and the second-largest [solar] employer with 35,000 people. However, cuts in feed-in tariffs for residential rooftops in the UK could result in a loss of 4,500 to 8,700 solar jobs according to UK government’s own estimates.

Irena director general, Adnan Amin, said: “The continued job growth in the [global] renewable energy sector is significant because it stands in contrast to trends across the energy sector.” He said the increase is being driven by rapidly falling costs for renewable energy and expect the trend to continue as renewables become ever more competitive and as countries move to achieve the targets pledged in a global climate change deal agreed in Paris in December.

“Even without a price on carbon, renewable energy is competing with dirty energy and winning,” said Ben Schreiber, at Friends of the Earth US. “The question isn’t whether renewable energy supplants fossil fuels, but whether fossil fuels companies can delay the transition long enough to destroy the climate.”


7 Responses to “Solar Now Employs More than Oil & Gas in US”

  1. Tom Bates Says:

    Why lie, when you post a lie it simply makes your comments look ridiculous. Oil and coal together employee more than solar. Solar employment would be a fraction of both if the government was not taking tax money from one group and giving it to the solar people and you know it. Your number seems to come from the solar industry lobby group which claims 188,000 in the solar industry in 2015, The Bureau of labor statistics number is a fraction of that number. If one look at why the oil and gas industry is down, look at the prices at your gas station. Oil is down thanks to OPEC, trying to drive the USA oil producers out of business.

    The cost of solar subsidies is complicated depending on how you count the dollars. One source Report:” Solar Energy Subsidies Cost $39 Billion Per Year. Despite billions spent in investments over decades, solar energy will only make up 0.6 percent of total electricity generation in the United States, according to a report released by the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA).Feb 12, 2015″ shows each solar worker is subsidized by the taxpayer to the tune of $207,447. If you want to hand each worker that much of your money go ahead.

    A claim is made of US subsidies in oil,gas and coal prices. That is an outright lie. The US and the states tax all three. If you tax something you are not subsidizing it. One of the arguments the fossil fuel industry is getting a subsidy is the claim they can use the depletion allowance to reduce taxes. What they are simply not saying is oil, gas and coal disappear as you sell the resource. That resource has a cost to buy and develop. What the tax code does is allow you to spread out those costs as you sell the resource. Lets put this in the average persons terms. You have a tree which gives you apples. You sell the apples to make a living. The Tree does not live forever and cost you say $10,000 to plant and wait for it to grow to the size it could give you apples. How do you write off that cost? You deplete the cost of the tree over the life of the tree just like the oil, gas and coal people.

    • otter17 Says:

      “Why lie, when you post a lie it simply makes your comments look ridiculous. Oil and coal together employee more than solar. ”

      Uh, read the headline again?

      “… according to a report released by the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA)”

      Not sure this seems like a non-partisan or well-regarded source of information in the area of study.

      “A claim is made of US subsidies in oil,gas and coal prices. That is an outright lie. The US and the states tax all three. If you tax something you are not subsidizing it.”

      Well, one could tax something as well as subsidize it with a reduction to a substantially lower amount, which is sometimes the case with certain special interest industries that conduct enough lobbying. Furthermore, there are other business endeavors that have upfront costs and depleting resource costs. Can’t the fossil fuel industries get a loan to deal with those situations like the rest of us?

      All in all, this post reeks of “subsidies for me, capitalism for everybody else” type of special interest apologetics. Poor form, sounds a tad desperate, you could do better if you applied yourself. D-

      • Sir Charles Says:

        => Empty promises: G20 subsidies to oil, gas and coal production

        G20 country governments are providing $444 billion a year in subsidies for the production of fossil fuels. Their continued support for fossil fuel production marries bad economics with potentially disastrous consequences for the climate. In effect, governments are propping up the production of oil, gas and coal, most of which can never be used if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change. It is tantamount to G20 governments allowing fossil fuel producers to undermine national climate commitments, while paying them for the privilege.

    • Sir Charles Says:

      What a childish comment, Tom Bates, you sound like a first grader. For the future I suggest you try some reading before making a total laugh of yourself again. “Oil & Gas” ain’t the same as “Oil and coal together”.

  2. Reblogged this on Aware & Fair and commented:
    Good news. Jobs in solar energy are increasing…

  3. Sir Charles Says:

    The Financial Times: Green jobs grow as oil employment falls

    The number of jobs in the global renewable energy industry grew by 5 per cent last year, in stark contrast to the steep losses suffered by the oil and gas sector.

    Solar, wind and other clean energy companies employed 8.1m people worldwide in 2015, up from 7.7m the previous year, according to data released by the International Renewable Energy Agency, an intergovernmental body based in Abu Dhabi.

    Another 1.3m people were working in the large hydropower industry, which Irena counts separately because numbers fluctuate so sharply from year to year they would distort the overall picture.

    The agency’s figures reflect a global shift that has seen renewable power soar in big Asian markets and falter in older markets such as the EU, where green energy jobs fell for the fourth year amid sluggish economic growth.

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