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Renewable Energy Jobs Soar in Germany

Renewable energy jobs in Germany shot up to 249,300 in 2007, almost double the 160,500 green jobs in Germany in 2004.

According to revised government figures, as many as 400,000 people could be employed in the renewable energy industry in Germany by 2020. This is 100,000 more jobs than a previous study had predicted due to the boost that the country's economy and exports received as a result of massive investment in the renewable sector.

"The systematic expansion of renewable energy is not only good from the environmental and climate policy point of view but also for innovation, growth and employment in Germany" Sigmar Gabriel, the German Minister for Environment said.

New figures published on March 14, 2008 (Bruttobeschäftigung 2007 by Marlene Kratzat, Dietmar Edler, Marion Ottmüller and Ulrike Lehr) show that solar sector jobs are being added the fastest but that employment in all green energy segments has been growing rapidly.

Biomass, which accounts for 39 percent of all renewable energy jobs in Germany, employed 96,100 people in 2007, up from 56,800 in 2004.

Jobs in wind power, which accounts for 34 percent of green energy jobs in the country, grew to 84,300 in 2007; in 2004, 63,000 people were employed in wind power.

Exports in wind power technology grew to €5.7 billion [US $8.9 billion] in 2007, up 7 percent from 2006. Stronger exports offset a drop in investment in wind farms inside the country as the sector consolidated after years of rapid growth.

The booming solar sector saw jobs grow to 38,600 in 2007 up from 25,100 in 2004 as investment poured into photovoltaic production facilities mainly in eastern Germany.

The geothermal sector saw the number of people employed increase from 1,800 in 2004 to 4,200 in 2006. However, the number of jobs in hydropower have remained more or less steady at 9,400 in 2007 or one percent down from 9,500 in 2004.

Observers say that even these higher job growth estimates for 2020 may be too pessimistic if Germany manages to maintain its current share of exports in renewable energy plants and components in the world's rapidly growing renewable energy industry.

At least 134,000 jobs in renewable energy created so far in Germany are thought to be a direct result of Germany's renewable energy law, which gave a big stimulus to investment.

In addition to jobs in renewable energy plant production and maintenance, there were 4,300 jobs in renewable energy-related research, scientific funding bodies, public relations and local government in 2006.

Figures published by the German government show that renewable energy sources accounted for 14.2 percent of the gross electricity consumption of the country in 2007. The increase of 20 percent from 2006 is enough to power a city the size of Hamburg.

Renewable energy sources generated 222 terawatt hours (TWh) in 2007 in electricity, heating and fuels, accounting for 8.5 percent of the country's total energy consumption, and saving 114 million tons of carbon dioxide.

To train young people in the skills needed for the booming renewable energy sector, the government is also expanding a program to sign up more companies.

So far 5,100 training places have been announced under a joint government-industry initiative "Environment creates perspectives" [Umwelt schafft perspektiven] launched in November 2006.

Jane Burgermeiser is a writer based in Austria.

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