More than 7.7 million people were employed in the renewables industry in 2014, an 18% rise from 6.5 million the previous year, according to a new report from the International renewable energy agency (IRENA).

The solar PV industry is the largest renewable energy employer worldwide with 2.5 million jobs, of which two-thirds were in China.

The report, ‘Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2015’, said that falling prices for solar PV and wind equipment globally posed a challenge for manufacturers in some markets, thus affecting jobs. However, accelerated PV installation and expanded operations and maintenance spurred job growth.

The manufacturing of solar panels moved from Europe and North America to Asia. China and Japan were also major markets for installation.

China remained the top solar energy job market, leading in manufacturing and expanding its domestic market.

Manufacturing jobs were on the rise in Malaysia, the Republic of Korea and other regional industrial hubs, however the report said: “Those markets are presently too limited to support considerable employment in the installation segment of the solar PV supply chain.”

In the technology job rankings, solar was followed by liquid biofuels with 1.8 million jobs, and wind power, which surpassed one million jobs for the first time.

Solar PV combined with solar heating and cooling, and concentrated solar power accounted for 3.3 million jobs.

The strongest growth in renewable energy jobs was seen in Asia especially in manufacturing.

Referring to the US market, IRENA director general Adnan Z. Amin said: “Total solar employment surged 22% to 173,800 in 2014. We have also found that the employment of women in the US solar industry is on the rise, increasing from 26,700 to 37,500 last year.”

The top 10 countries for renewables employment are: China, Brazil, the US, India, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, France, Bangladesh and Colombia.