Worldwide employment in the renewable energy sector reached 12.7 million last year, a jump of 700,000 new jobs in just 12 months, 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 UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO).
Renewable Energy and Jobs: Annual Review 2022, identifies domestic market size as a major factor influencing job growth in renewables, along with labour and other costs.
Solar growing fastest
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, countries are turning inwards to boost job creation at home, focusing on local supply chains.
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.
‘Just transition for all’
ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, said that “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, inclusion and ultimately, achieve a just transition for all.”
Mr. Ryder encouraged governments, organized labour and business groups “to remain firmly committed to a sustainable energy transition, which is indispensable for the future of work.”
Resilient and reliable
IRENA’s Director-General, Francesco La Camera, said that in the face of numerous challenges, “renewable energy jobs remain resilient, and have been proven to be a reliable job creation engine. My advice to governments around the world is to pursue industrial policies that encourage the expansion of decent renewables 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.”
Joining the renewable revolution
The report shows that an increasing number of countries are creating jobs in the renewables sector - almost two-thirds of them in Asia.
China alone accounts for 42 per cent of the global total, according to the report, followed by the EU and Brazil with 10 per cent each, and the US and India with seven per cent each.
Southeast Asian countries are becoming major solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing hubs and biofuel producers, while 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 Gigawatts of solar PV, generating many installation jobs, but remains heavily dependent on imported panels, the report notes.
Europe now accounts for about 40 per cent 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, while in the Americas, Mexico is the leading supplier of wind turbine blades.
Brazil remains the leading employer in 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.