Sunshine Fuels Job Growth In South America


Figures from IRENA 2016, the annual review of renewable energy and jobs, reveal that the number of people employed in the global renewable energy industry rose by 5% in 2015 to reach 8.1 million. The most important employers in this sector are involved in solar energy, which accounted for 2.8 million jobs in that same year. The countries with the highest employment numbers for the renewable energy sector were China, Brazil, and the United States. In Brazil, current estimates point to every megawatt of newly installed photovoltaic capacity either directly or indirectly creating between 20 and 30 jobs. As PV power plants expand in Brazil, there is every potential to create up to 90,000 new jobs.

Although there was a slight downturn in global employment in renewables compared to previous years, the number of jobs worldwide continues to rise in the long term – a stark contrast to the depressed labor markets of the energy sector as a whole. Solar energy is the largest global employer in renewables with an estimated 2.8 million jobs worldwide (an increase of 11% versus 2014). The number of people working in solar energy-based water heating and cooling has dropped to around 940,000 due to shrinking markets in China, Brazil and the European Union. At 1.3 million, there was also a dip in people employed directly through large hydropower activity, primarily due to the lower number of new installations. Most jobs in this field are in operations and maintenance, with the biggest employers being China, Brazil, and India.

At present, the Brazilian renewables sector mainly employs people in bioenergy and large hydropower activities, although jobs in the wind sector are also growing thanks to increased levels of deployment and local manufacturing. So solar PV is expected to be the field with the fastest expansion as local deployment increases and planned photovoltaic power plant capacity grows to 3.3 GW by 2018. On top of the 60,000 to 90,000 jobs this could create, local module production holds plenty of potential as the focus shifts away from installation. To draw a parallel, there were 100,000 solar jobs in Germany when the market hit 7 GW in 2012, so depending on developments in Brazil, solar energy holds major potential for Brazilian employment in the long term. Several firms have indicated interest in setting up solar PV manufacturing, so what is currently almost a miniature job market of just 4,000 people in Brazil could become a key part of the economy within decades, if not years.

This would mirror developments in other regions where further cost cutting in solar PV has helped drive deployment at the utility and distributed levels. Viewed globally, solar PV installations were up 20% in 2015, with China, Japan, and the United States leading the way. The dominant solar PV employer is China, with 1.7 million jobs in 2015, mainly due to an undisputed lead in manufacturing and installations. Since the United States and the EU have both levied duties on panel imports from China, some Chinese module suppliers have reacted to US and EU duties on panel imports by setting up new facilities in countries like Brazil. Also, as solar PV becomes increasingly distributed, different parts of the value chain (like assembly, distribution or after sales service) are easy to localize, thus creating even more jobs.

The job market in Brazil and the anticipated expansion in solar PV in Brazil will be among the key issues discussed at the jobs and career forum at Intersolar South America. Not only does the event offer a platform for jobseekers and other solar professionals to find out more about current trends, solar companies and HR specialists will also be available to talk about job openings. The platform is being organized with the support of the media partner, Portal Solar, who will be onsite to share the latest news on the Brazilian job market.

This year’s Intersolar in Sao Paulo also offers young engineers a variety of half-day workshops and training sessions to encourage newcomers to the renewable job market. The instruction program gives young and talented people insights into the market and the opportunities offered by industry leaders and associations. There will also be advanced training sessions and workshops to help installers hone their skills and learn new methods and understand regulations.

About Intersolar

With events spanning four continents, Intersolar is the world’s leading exhibition series for the solar industry and its partners. It unites people and companies from around the world with the aim of increasing the share of solar power in our energy supply.

Intersolar South America is the largest exhibition and conference for the solar industry in South America. It takes place at the Expo Center Norte in São Paulo, Brazil.

The event’s exhibition and conference both focus on the areas of photovoltaics, PV production technologies, energy storage systems and solar thermal technologies. Since being founded, Intersolar has become the most important industry platform for manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, service providers and partners in the global solar industry.

115 exhibitors and more than 9,000 trade visitors attended Intersolar South America in 2015. 91 speakers and more than 817 attendees discussed current industry topics and shed light on the conditions surrounding technological, market and political developments at the accompanying conference.

With 25 years of experience, Intersolar has the unique ability to bring together members of the solar industry from across the world’s most influential markets. Intersolar exhibitions and conferences are held in Munich, San Francisco, Mumbai, São Paulo, and, starting in 2016, in Dubai. These global events are complemented by the Intersolar Summits, which take place in emerging and growing markets worldwide.