By: Mindy Laughton

According to recently-released figures from the European Commission, over 1.14 million people were employed in the green energy sector in 2010 – a number that reflects an impressive 25 percent increase from the previous year. The report furthermore that revenue in the sector grew 15 percent during that same time, and now stands at 127 billion Euro ($166 billion) annually.

The largest industry cited in the report was the solid biomass power sector, which employed 273,000 workers in 2010. That was followed by the solar voltaic sector, which employed 268,110 people, and then the wind power industry, which claimed 253,145 jobs.

From a national perspective, Germany led the way with 361,360 jobs, spurred in large part by a tremendous domestic growth in solar photovoltaic. France was second with 174,735 green energy workers, and Italy, Spain, and Sweden comprised the rest of the top five. The United Kingdom fell to ninth on the list.

Although the study provided no data for 2011, estimates indicate that the renewable energy industry continued to grow at an impressive pace over the past year. In the United Kingdom, for example, the addition of wind turbine firms and the growing demand for solar panels brought over 20,000 new jobs to the country. It can be expected that a similar growth took place in Germany and Italy, the two EU countries with the highest green energy revenues and profitability numbers.

These numbers do not include jobs in secondary industries, such as construction and design, that look to maximize renewable resources but do not actually generate electricity. Employers of roofing companies such as Duro Last and rapidly-growing green engineering firms would fall under this excluded category.

This exclusion should be kept in mind when comparing the EU numbers to those in the U.S. Although the United States claims 2.7 million workers in the “clean economy,” the actual employment breakdown by sector now lags far behind the numbers seen in the EU. For example, there were 100,000 people employed in the U.S. solar voltaic sector in 2010 and an even fewer number of workers in the wind power industry. The United States leads Europe, however, in the area of hydropower investment and production.

While job creation is only one part of the green energy picture, the European Commission report also noted that renewable consumption increased alongside job growth in 2011 at a rate of 11 percent. This rate, although partially inflated by colder winters and heavy rainfalls, nonetheless reflects one of the largest single year jumps to date.

Hopefully, these positive trends will continue and we’ll be greeted with more good news on the employment and consumption front next year.