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Employment in the sustainable energy sector

The sustainable energy sector accounted for 0.73 percent of total employment in 2016. Its share has been increasing gradually since 2008 (0.49 percent), except for a dip in 2012. In absolute terms, employment grew from 35 thousand full-time equivalents (fte) in 2008 to 52 thousand ftes in 2016. The share of gross value added of the renewable energy sector in GDP (gross domestic product) is relatively higher (0.82 percent in 2016), which reflects the relatively low labour intensity of the sector.

The sustainable energy sector consists of companies and institutions that physically produce renewable energy (operating phase), as well as companies active in the value chains before or after the operating phase:The sector also comprises energy saving andrenewable energy systems industries, as well as companies that make fossil energy relatively more sustainable (e.g. through carbon capture and storage (CCS)).

The issue

Both the exhaustibility of fossil fuels and the global pressure to diminish emissions related to their consumption are boosting the importance of the sustainable energy sector, which is part of the environmental goods and services sector. Green growth focuses on stimulating the use of innovative and sustainable systems for renewable energy as well as energy saving. Therefore , economic, technological and geopolitical developments have the potential to make the sustainable energy sector an important and fast growing factor in the green economy.

Analysis

In 2015, the sustainable energy sector accounted for 34 percent of employment in the environmental goods and service sector (EGSS). The sustainable energy sector distinguishes operational activities, i.e. the production of renewable energy, and activities resulting from investment. The latter includes a wide range of energy related activities that are often related to investment required to produce renewable energy. These include the production, construction and installation of energy systems and infrastructure, insulation activities, R&D and consultancy. By far most employment (94 percent) was related to activities resulting from investment, of which more than 57 percent were energy saving activities. The remaining 6 percent was related to operational energy activities.
Within renewable energy technologies, solar and wind energy generate most employment, about 13 thousand ftes (operating phase and employment resulting from investment). In general, the sustainable energy sector has been growing steadily over time and is becoming more important in the Dutch economy, contributing to the transition towards a more green economy.