Wind energy employment in Europe

The EU wind energy sector directly employed approximately 108,600 people in 2007. Including indirect employment, the wind energy sector employs 154,000 in the EU. A previous EWEA study on EU-15 employment found that wind energy directly employed 48,363 people in 2002.

Direct employment has increased by 60,237 (125%) since then. On average, 12,047 new direct wind energy jobs have been created per year in the five-year period 2002-2007. In other words, 33 new people have been employed every day, seven days a week in the wind energy sector over the past fi ve years.

For the purposes of this report, direct jobs relate to employment in wind turbine manufacturing companies and with sub-contractors whose main activity is supplying wind turbine components. Also included are wind energy promoters, utilities selling electricity from wind energy and major R&D, engineering and specialised wind energy services.

Any companies producing intermediates or components, providing services or sporadically working in wind-related activities are deemed to provide indirect employment.

Country -No. of direct jobs
Austria 700
Belgium 2,000
Bulgaria 100
Czech Republic 100
Denmark 17,000
Finland 800
France 7,000
Germany 38,000
Greece 1,800
Hungary 100
Ireland 1,500
Italy 2,500
The Netherlands 2,000
Poland 800
Portugal 800
Spain 20,500
Sweden 2,000
United Kingdom 4,000
Rest of EU 400
TOTAL 102,100

SOURCE: EWEA, ADEME, AEE, DWIA, Federal Ministry of the Environment in Germany.

The addition of indirect and induced employment affects results significantly. The European Commission, in its EC Impact Assessment on the Renewable Energy Roadmap, found that 150,000 jobs were linked to wind energy. The European Renewable Energy Council report foresees a workforce of 184,000 people in 2010, but the installed capacity for that year has probably been underestimated. Accordingly, the figure for total direct and indirect jobs is estimated at approximately 180,000 jobs.

These two figures of 102,100 direct and 180,000 total jobs can be compared with the results obtained by EWEA in its previous survey for Wind Energy–The Facts (2004) of 46,000 and 72,275 workers, respectively. The growth experienced (213% and 249%) is coherent with the evolution of the installed capacity in Europe (276%) during the same period and with the fact that most of the largest wind energy companies are European.

A significant part of the direct wind energy employment (circa 74%) is in three countries: Denmark, Germany and Spain, whose combined installed capacity adds up to 70% of the total in the EU. Nevertheless, the sector is less concentrated now than it was in 2003, when these three countries accounted for 89% of the employment and 84% of the EU installed capacity. This is due to the opening of manufacturing and operation centres in emerging markets and to the local nature of many wind-related activities, such as promotion, O&M, engineering and legal services.

Germany is the country where most wind-related jobs have been created, around 38,000 directly attributable to wind energy companies and a slightly higher amount from indirect effects. According to this source, in 2007, over 80% of the value chain in the German wind energy sector was exported.

In Spain, direct employment is slightly over 20,781 people. When indirect jobs are taken into account, the figure goes up to 37,730. According to the AEE, 30% of the jobs are in manufacturing companies; 34% in installation, O&M and repair companies, 27% in promotion and engineering companies and 9% in other branches.

Denmark has around 17,000 employees in wind turbine and blade manufacturing and major sub-component corporations . When indirect jobs are taken into account, the number goes up to 23,500.

The launch of new wind energy markets has fostered the creation of employment in other EU countries. Factors such as market size, proximity to one of the three traditional leaders, national regulation and labour costs determine the industry structure, but the effect is always positive.

France (2,454 MW, 888 MW added in 2007, and an estimated figure of 7,000 wind energy jobs), for instance, shows a wealth of small developers, consultants, engineering and legal service companies. All the large wind energy manufacturers, developers and some utilities have opened up a branch in this country. France also counts on several wind turbine and component manufacturers producing in its territory.

In the UK, the importance of offshore wind energy and small-scale wind turbines is reflected by the existence of many job-creating businesses in this area. This country also has some of the most prestigious wind energy engineering and consultancy companies. The British Wind Energy Association is conducting a study of present and future wind energy employment; preliminary results point to the existence of around 4,000 to 4,500 direct jobs.

A third example can be found in Portugal, where the growth of the market initially relied on imported wind turbines. From 2009 onwards, two new factories will be opened, adding around 2,000 new jobs to the 800 that already exist.

Some other EU Member States such as Italy, Greece, Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland and Sweden are also in the 1,500 to 2,500 band. The situation in the new Member States is diverse, with Poland in a leading position. Wind energy employment will probably rise significantly in the next three to five years, boosted by a combination of market attractiveness, a highly skilled labour force and lower production costs.

In terms of gender, the survey conducted by EWEA shows that males make up 78% of the workforce. In the EU labour market, the percentage is 55.7%. Such a bias reflects the traditional predominance of men in production chains, construction work and engineering.

By type of company, wind turbine and component manufacturers account for most of the jobs (59%). Within these categories, companies tend to be bigger and thus employ more people.

Wind energy figures can be measured against the statistics provided by Eurostat. The energy sector employs 2.69 million people, accounting for 1.4% of total EU employment. Approximately half this amount is active in the production of electricity, gas, steam and hot water. Employment from the wind energy sector would then make up around 7.3% of that amount; and it should be noted wind energy currently meets 3.7% of EU electricity demand. Although the lack of specific data for electricity production prevents us from making more accurate comparisons, this shows that wind energy is more labour intensive than the other electricity generating technologies. This conclusion is consistent with earlier research.

Finally, there is a well documented trend of energy employment decline in Europe, particularly marked in the coal sector. For instance, British coal production and employment have dropped significantly, from 229,000 workers in 1981 to 5,500 in 2006. In Germany, it is estimated that jobs in the sector will drop from 265,000 in 1991 to less than 80,000 in 2020. In EU countries, more than 150,000 utility and gas industry jobs disappeared in the second half of the 1990s and it is estimated that another 200,000 jobs wll be lost during the first half of the 21st century (UNEP, ILO, ITUC, 2007). The outcomes set out in the previous paragraphs demonstrates that job losses in the European energy sector are independent of renewable energy deployment and that the renewable energy sector is, in fact, helping to mitigate these negative effects in the power sector.
Job profiles of the wind energy industry

The lack of any official classification of wind energy companies makes it difficult to categorise wind energy jobs. The table below summarises the main profiles required by wind energy industries, according to the nature of their core business.

In the last two to three years, wind energy companies have repeatedly reported a serious shortage of workers, especially within certain fields. This scarcity coincides with a general expansion of the European economy, where growth rates have been among the largest since the end of the Second World War. An analysis of Eurostat statistics proves that job vacancies have been difficult to cover in all sectors. The rotation of workers is high, both for skilled and non-skilled workers.

In the case of wind energy, the general pressure provoked by strong economic growth is complemented by the extraordinary performance of the sector since the end of the 1990s. In the 2000-2007 period, wind energy installations in the EU increased by 339%. This has prompted an increase in job offers in all the sub-sectors, especially in manufacturing, maintenance and development activities.

Generally speaking, the shortage is more acute for positions that require a high degree of experience and responsibility:

* From a manufacturer’s point of view, two major bottlenecks arise: one relates to engineers dealing with R&D, product design and the manufacturing processes; the other to O&M and site management activities (technical staff).
* In turn, wind energy promoters lack project managers; the professionals responsible for getting the permits in the country where a wind farm is going to be installed. These positions require a combination of specific knowledge of the country, as well as wind energy expertise, which is difficult to gain in a short period of time.
* Other profiles, such as financiers or sales managers can sometimes be hard to find, but generally this is less of a problem for wind energy companies, possibly because the necessary qualifications are more general.
* The picture for the R&D institutes is not clear: of the two consulted one reported no problems, while the other complained that it was impossible to hire experienced researchers. It is worth noting that the remuneration offered by R&D centres, especially if they are governmental or university-related, is below the levels offered by private companies.

The quality of the university system does not seem to be at the root of the problem, although recently graduated students often need an additional specialisation that is given by the wind company itself. The general view is that the number of engineers graduating from European universities on an annual basis does not meet the needs of modern economies, which rely heavily on manufacturing, technological sectors and products.

In contrast, there seems to be a gap in the secondary level of education, where the range and quality of courses dealing with wind-related activities (mainly O&M, health and safety, logistics and site management) are inadequate. Policies aimed at improving the educational programmes at pre-university level – dissemination campaigns, measures to encourage worker mobility and vocational training for the unemployed – can help overcome the bottleneck, and at the same time ease the transition of staff moving from declining sectors.

Employment prediction and methodology

The quantification of wind energy employment is a difficult task for several reasons. Firstly, it encompasses many company profiles, such as equipment manufacturing, electricity generation, consulting services, finance and insurance, which belong to different economic sectors. Secondly, we cannot rely on any existing statistics to estimate wind energy figures, as they do not distinguish between electricity or equipment manufacturing branches. Finally, the structure of the sector changes fast and historical data cannot be easily updated to reflect the current situation.

For these reasons, measurement initiatives must rely on a number of methodologies which, can largely be grouped under two headings:

* Data collection based on surveys and complemented by other written evidence
* Data collection based on estimated relationships between sectors, vectors of activity and input-output tables

Surveys are the best way to collect information on direct employment, especially when additional aspects – gender issues, employment profiles, length of contracts and other qualitative information – need to be incorporated. Surveys have significant limitations, notably the correct identification of the units that need to be studied and the low percentage of responses. When these problems arise, results need to be extrapolated and completed by other means.

Estimated relationships, including input-output tables, can be used to estimate both direct and indirect employment impacts. These models require some initial information, collected by means of a questionnaire and/or expert interviews, but then work on the basis of technical coefficients. The advantages of estimated models are based on the fact that they reflect net economic changes in the sector that is being studied, other related economic sectors and the whole of the economic system.

These models also constitute the basis for the formulation of forecasts. The disadvantages relate to the cost of carrying out such studies, and the need to obtain an appropriate model. In addition, they do not provide any details at sub-sector level and do not capture gender-related, qualification and shortage issues.

In the last six or seven years, coinciding with the boom of the wind energy sector, several studies have been conducted with the related employment repercussions.

A careful revision of their methodology shows that many of them are, in reality, a meta-analysis (that is to say, a critical re-examination and comparison of earlier works), while research based on questionnaires and/or I-O tables is less common. Denmark, Germany and Spain, being the three world leaders in wind energy production and installation, display solid studies (AEE, 2007; DWIA, 2008; Lehr et al, 2008 and Federal Ministry of the Environment, BMU 2008), but the employment in the other EU markets remains largely unknown. In particular, there is a lack of information on some key features affecting the wind energy labour market, such as the profiles that are currently in demand, shortage and gender issues. These issues can best be dealt through ad hoc questionnaires sent to wind energy companies.

EWEA survey on direct employment

As a response to the gaps mentioned above, EWEA has sought to quantify the number of people directly employed by the wind energy sector in Europe by means of a questionnaire. As explained in Wind energy employment in Europe, direct jobs relate to employment within wind turbine manufacturing companies and sub-contractors whose main activity is the supply of wind turbine components. Also taken into account are wind energy promoters, utilities selling electricity from wind energy and major R&D, engineering and specialised wind energy services. Any other company producing intermediates, components, providing services or sporadically working in wind-related activities is deemed as providing indirect employment.

The analysts have attempted to minimise the main disadvantages linked to this type of methodology. Consequently, the questionnaire was drafted after careful analysis of previous research in this field, notably the questionnaires that had been used in the German, Danish and Spanish studies, and following a discussion with the researchers responsible for them. A draft was sent to a reduced number of respondents, who then commented on any difficulties understanding the questions and using the Excel spreadsheet, the length of the questionnaire and some other aspects. The document was modified accordingly.

The final version of the questionnaire was dispatched by e-mail on 19 February 2008 to around 1,100 organisations in 30 countries (the 27-EU Member States plus Croatia, Norway and Turkey). It reached all EWEA members and the members of the EU-27 national wind energy associations. The questionnaire was also distributed among participants of the last two European Wind Energy Conferences (EWEC 2006 and 2007). These included:

* wind turbine and component manufacturers;
* developers;
* independent power producers and utilities;
* installation, repair and O&M companies;
* consultancies;
* engineering and legal services;
* R&D centres;
* laboratories and universities;
* financial institutions and insurers;
* wind energy agencies and associations, and
* other interest groups directly involved in wind energy matters.

The document was translated into five EU languages (English, French, German, Spanish and Portuguese), and a number of national wind energy associations decided to write the introductory letter in their own languages. A reminder was sent out on 11 March, followed up by telephone calls during April, May, June, July and August.

The questionnaire consisted of 14 questions, divided into three blocks:

* The first four questions collected information on the profile of the company, its field of activity and the year in which it started operating in the wind energy sector.
* The next three questions aimed to obtain relevant employment figures. The questionnaire requested both the total number of employees and the number of employees in the wind energy sector, and gave some indication about how to calculate the second figure when a worker was not devoted to wind-related activities full time. The figures were divided up by country, since some companies are trans-national, and by sex. It would have been interesting to classify this data by age and level of qualification, but the draft sent to a sample of respondents showed us that this level of detail would be very difficult to obtain and that it would have had a negative impact on the number of replies.
* The final four questions addressed the issue of labour force scarcity in the wind energy sector, and aimed to obtain information on the profiles that are in short supply and the prospects of wind energy companies in terms of future employment levels and profiles. Questions 9 and 10 were more speculative since it is difficult to quantify the exact employment demands in the next five years, but they gave an order of magnitude that could then be compared with the quantitative approaches used by other researchers that applied input-output tables.

The questionnaire was complemented by in-depth interviews with a selection of stakeholders that suitably reflected the main wind energy sub-sectors and EU countries. The interviews were carried out by phone, e-mail or face-to-face. They were aimed at verifying the data obtained from the questionnaires and at addressing some of the topics that could not be dealt with, notably a more thorough explanation of the job profiles demanded by the industry and the scarcity problem.

By the end of August 2008, 324 valid questionnaires had been received, implying a rate of responses of around 30%. When looking at the size of the companies that replied, it is clear that most large turbine and component manufacturers, as well as the major utilities answered the questionnaire, implying that the percentage of jobs they reported was higher (around 60%) than suggested by the analysis by number of replies.

EWEA is engaged in an in-depth examination of the factors that are behind the repeatedly reported shortage of workers in the wind energy business and the profiles that are particularly difficult to find. This has been done through in-depth interviews (conducted face-to-face, by e-mail and by phone) with the Human Resources managers of a selection of wind energy companies from the different branches and geographical areas.