June 6, 2012 / 12:55 PM / in 6 years

Germany eyes job boom in renewables sector - study

BERLIN, June 6 (Reuters) - Germany’s expanding renewable power industry will account for over half a million jobs by 2030, an increase of more than a third from current levels, driven by strong solar and wind sectors, a study presented on Wednesday showed.

The GWS think tank said it expected the number of jobs linked to the renewables industry to rise to as much as 600,000 in 2030. Currently around 382,000 jobs are linked to the industry, equivalent to about 1 percent of the workforce in Europe’s biggest economy,

The study included employees involved in making and maintaining renewable energy equipment as well as workers indirectly serving the sector such as scientists, suppliers and service industries.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is banking on a major expansion in renewables to make up for possible power shortfalls from an accelerated exit from the nuclear industry - a move she abruptly announced a year ago after Japan’s Fukushima disaster.

Germany aims to derive 35 percent of its power from renewable sources in 2020 and 80 percent in 2050 from 20 percent now although critics say those targets looks a long way off.

German industry, which prides itself on adapting to new global trends, has shifted some of its traditional heavy engineering to green technology in the last decade. This has helped to shield its economy and job market from the worst of the financial and debt crises.

The solar sector, boosted in the last decade by generous incentives which turned Germany into the world’s largest market for solar panels, accounts for around a third of jobs in the renewables sector.

Some experts are pessimistic about the solar sector due to cuts in incentives and increased competition from abroad - several firms in the branch have gone bankrupt in the last year. But the GWS study said the industry should hold its own.

Bioenergy also accounts for about a third of jobs in the renewables branch with wind energy contributing over a quarter of jobs.

Offshore wind is one of the biggest areas earmarked for expansion in Germany although plans to build 10,000 MW of offshore wind parks by 2020 look in doubt due to an inadequate power grid plus regulatory and financing questions.

Ulrike Lehr, co-author of the study, said much depended on international conditions.

“It depends on international markets. The development of the wind sector, for example, will be affected a good deal by export demand but we expect the distribution between sectors to remain roughly the same,” Lehr told reporters.

While the southern state of Bavaria and western state of North Rhine-Westphalia contribute the largest number of workers in the renewables sector, less dynamic economies in former Communist eastern states are more reliant on the industry.

Growth in several of those states has been boosted in the last few years by solar energy and some are pinning their hopes on offshore wind. (Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Mark Potter)

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