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Renewable energy jobs hit 12.7 million globally – IRENA

Renewable energy jobs hit 12.7 million globally – IRENA
Renewable energy employment worldwide reached 12.7 million in 2021, up 700 000 from 2020. Note (a) includes liquid biofuels, solid biomass, and biogas. (b) Direct jobs only; (c) “Others” includes geothermal energy, concentrated solar power, heat pumps (ground-based), municipal and industrial waste, and ocean energy (graphic courtesy IRENA).

Worldwide employment in renewable energy reached 12.7 million last year, a jump of 700 000 new jobs in one year, despite the lingering effects of COVID-19 and the growing energy crisis, according to a new report published by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO), during the Global Clean Energy Action Forum in Pittsburgh, United States.

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The ninth edition of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) series, Renewable energy and jobs: Annual review 2022, produced in collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO), provides the latest estimates of renewable energy employment globally.

The report identifies domestic market size as a major factor influencing employment generation in renewables, along with labour and other costs.

Solar is the fastest growing sector

Solar energy was found to be the fastest-growing sector. In 2021 it provided 4.3 million jobs, more than a third of the current global workforce in renewable energy.

With rising concerns about climate change, COVID-19 recovery, and supply chain disruption, national interest is growing in localizing supply chains and creating jobs at home.

The report describes how strong domestic markets are key to anchoring a drive toward clean energy industrialization. Developing renewable technology export capabilities is also dependent on this, it adds.

In the face of numerous challenges, renewable energy jobs remain resilient and have been proven to be reliable job creation engine. My advice to governments around the world is to pursue industrial policies that encourage the expansion of decent renewable jobs at home. Spurring a domestic value chain will not only create business opportunities and new jobs for people and local communities. It also bolsters supply chain reliability and contributes to more energy security overall, said Francesco La Camera, Director-General of IRENA.

The report shows that an increasing number of countries are creating jobs in renewables. Almost two-thirds of all these jobs are in Asia.

China alone accounts for 42 percent of the global total, followed by the EU and Brazil with ten percent each, and the USA and India with seven percent each.

Beyond the numbers, there is a growing focus on the quality of jobs and the conditions of work in renewable energies, to ensure decent and productive employment. The increasing share of female employment suggests that dedicated policies and training can significantly enhance the participation of women in renewable energy occupations, and inclusion and ultimately, achieve a just transition for all. I encourage governments, workers’ and employers’ organizations to remain firmly committed to a sustainable energy transition, which is indispensable for the future of work, said ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder.

The report highlights some notable regional and national developments. These include Southeast Asian countries becoming major solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing hubs and biofuel producers.

China is the pre-eminent manufacturer and installer of solar PV panels and is creating a growing number of jobs in offshore wind. India added more than 10 GW of solar PV, generating many installation jobs, but remains heavily dependent on imported panels.

Europe now accounts for about 40 percent of the world’s wind manufacturing output and is the most important exporter of wind power equipment; it is trying to reconstitute its solar PV manufacturing industry.

Africa’s role is still limited, but the report points out that there are growing job opportunities in decentralized renewables, especially in support of local commerce, agriculture, and other economic activities.

In the Americas, Mexico is the leading supplier of wind turbine blades. Brazil remains the leading employer within biofuels but is also adding many jobs in wind and solar PV installations. The US is beginning to build a domestic industrial base for the budding offshore wind sector.

The report highlights that the expansion of renewable energy needs to be supported with holistic policy packages, including training for workers to ensure jobs are decent, high quality, well paid, and diverse in pursuit of a just transition.

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