Does Renewable Energy Create More Jobs Than Fossil Fuels?

Does renewable energy as an industry create more jobs than fossil fuels?

In this guide we look at how many jobs the various renewable energy sources create compared to fossil fuels like coal, natural gas and oil on a global, as well as a country based level.


Summary – Renewable Energy Jobs vs Fossil Fuel Jobs

It’s hard to find the complete global employment statistics on fossil fuels, but it’s easy to see how, right now, fossil fuel employment far outstrips renewable energy employment, especially considering major countries like China and India still have coal as a leading primary energy source, and many other major countries have petroleum or natural gas in their mix.

Global coal mining employment currently almost exceeds global renewable energy employment in total by itself

Right now, in the US, fossil fuel employment still outweighs renewable energy employment by total numbers and as a % (56% to 44%)

However, these stats look to gradually reverse in the future with the amount of renewable energy investment we have seen over the past decade, and the strong job growth seen in renewable energy in many major countries over the past decade also

Solar PV in the US already provides over double the amount of jobs that coal does

There’s also regional trends developing – Ten of the 12 states in the US MidWest have more rural clean energy jobs than rural fossil fuel jobs (

Some states like California who have a big renewable energy focus can see higher overall and per capita growth than other states with less renewable energy friendly policies 

China has already begun either reallocating or cutting jobs in the coal and steel industries, and these job declines are expected until at least 2020.

It’s not hard to see other countries doing the same as old coal plants close 


When comparing renewable energy to fossil fuel energy in terms of job creation and employment:

– Some renewables can more labor intensive, whereas some fossil fuels can be more capital intensive

– Renewables generally create more jobs per dollar invested than conventional electricity generation technologies

– Some studies show the renewable energy sector generates more jobs than the fossil fuel-based energy sector per unit of energy delivered (i.e. per average megawatt)

– Renewable energy can be more expensive in some regards to set up (compared to old fossil fuel plants and technology)

But, we also have to consider the environmental and social costs we are paying for them, with air pollution, air pollution related health problems and higher mortality rates, greenhouse gases emissions – all being just a few of these costs.

Some reports indicate that because renewables are more expensive, you could argue that extra money could be spent on fossil fuel employment generation, but, you also have to consider that fossil fuels have a hidden cost that is the cost to the environment and also public health. With these factors considered – renewables still likely employ more people

– With any cost difference between the two, you have to look if the cost saving difference could be spent elsewhere to create more jobs

– In addition to the number of jobs, the type of jobs being created is also important to look at (i.e. the quality of the jobs and what thy entail)

– Overall, renewables, as long as they continue to receive funding and support, appear to be as beneficial for job creation and employment totals, or better, compared to fossil fuels


*Note – it’s important to note the difference between direct and indirect, and full time and part time jobs.

It’s also important to look at how the number of jobs provided by each energy source, comparative to the installed capacity, production and consumption of each energy source.


Worldwide/Globally – Number Of Renewable Energy Jobs vs Fossil Fuel Jobs

Fossil Fuels

[In 2018, the global coal mining industry employed 8,650,211 people]



Renewable Energy

[There were 10.3 million jobs in 2017 in renewable energy worldwide]



United States – Number Of Renewable Energy Jobs vs Fossil Fuel Jobs

Renewable Energy

In 2016 in the US (of a total 1.9 million jobs in power creation):

Solar – 373,807

Bioenergy – 130,677

Wind – 101,738

Nuclear – 76,771

Hydroelectric – 65,554

Geothermal – a smaller amount than the above energy sources



2016 US renewable energy employment numbers by energy source can be seen at


Fossil Fuels

In 2016, in the US (of a total 1.9 million jobs in power creation):

56% of energy industry jobs involved in power creation stemmed from oil, natural gas, and coal …

Oil – 515,518

Natural Gas – 398,235

Coal – 160,119



China – Number Of Renewable Energy Jobs vs Fossil Fuels


[43% of the 10.3 million jobs in 2017 in renewable energy worldwide were in China]

[China has 83% of worldwide solar heating and cooling jobs, 66% of the solar photovoltaic (PV) sector jobs, 44% in wind power]



[China is] the world leader in clean energy employment by far with nearly 4 million jobs, including hydropower [in 2016]



Fossil Fuels

… by 2020 the coal sector will employ less than three million people, down from 5.29 million in 2013 



In General – Does Renewable Energy Create More Jobs Than Fossil Fuels? outlines studies on investment in renewable energy and clean energy that point out the following:

[clean energy tends to produce more direct and indirect jobs than fossil fuel energy – more than three times the amount per $1 million invested]

… substantially higher quality and higher pay nature of clean energy jobs relative to fossil fuel employment

… energy efficiency investment of $1 million creates 66 job years (this includes both direct and indirect jobs)

[more jobs are created for clean energy per GWh produced than fossil fuels]

[other studies show renewable energy can create up to 6.7 more times than some fossil fuel energy sources]

Clean energy jobs also generally are more distributed and are largely higher quality jobs



Compared with fossil fuel technologies, which are typically mechanized and capital-intensive, the renewable energy industry is more labor intensive.

Solar panels need humans to install them; wind farms need technicians for maintenance.

This means that, on average, more jobs are created for each unit of electricity generated from renewable sources than from fossil fuels.

That is true even when wind and solar power are cheaper for the customer

[renewables] are labor intensive, so they generally create more jobs per dollar invested than conventional electricity generation technologies



Renewables are more labor intensive, whereas fossil fuel tends to be more capital intensive



… renewable energy investment and development tends to create more jobs than fossil fuel energy … per unit of energy delivered (i.e., per average megawatt)

… [this is] because a larger share of renewable energy expenditures go to manufacturing equipment, installation, and maintenance, all of which are typically more labor-intensive than extracting and transporting fossil fuels

… investing in various types of renewable energy would create approximately twice as many jobs in the USA by 2020 as investing in coal and natural gas. 

… [a 2001] report found that wind and solar photovoltaic investments lead to at least 40% more jobs per dollar than coal.

It’s a complicated comparison, because renewable energy sources tend to be more expensive than fossil fuel energy.

Thus hypothetically, the extra money invested in renewable energy could have been spent elsewhere to create new jobs in a different sector of the economy.

However, fossil fuel energy is also artificially cheap because its price does not account for various external costs like climate change and impacts on public health. 

When accounting for all factors, it’s likely that renewable energy results in more jobs per dollar invested than fossil fuels.



What Happens To Jobs In The Future As More Energy Becomes Renewable?

In one scenario:

[some studies show we] can move to 100% renewable energy by 2050, while creating jobs along the way

[more total jobs will be created in the energy sector with this approach]

… metal trades are the only type of job that will experience a reduction – all other energy based jobs will see an increase.

The one exception to this is China and India, for example, will both experience a reduction in the number of jobs for managers and clerical and administrative workers between 2015 and 2025.



The 2009 Union of Concerned Scientists study of a 25-percent-by-2025 renewable energy standard found that such a policy would create more than three times as many jobs (more than 200,000) as producing an equivalent amount of electricity from fossil fuels

















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