Illustration (Courtesy of IRENA)

Renewable energy jobs remain resilient with 12.7 million employed globally

Worldwide renewable energy employment 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 by International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

Illustration (Courtesy of IRENA)
Illustration (Courtesy of IRENA)
Illustration (Courtesy of IRENA)

The report, Renewable Energy and Jobs: Annual Review 2022, identifies market dynamics as major factors influencing employment generation in renewables, along with labor and other costs.

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

The report shows that an increasing number of countries are creating jobs in renewables. Almost two-thirds of all these jobs are in Asia, according to the new report. China alone accounts for 42% of the global total, followed by the EU and Brazil with 10% each, and the USA and India with 7% each.

With rising concerns over climate change, post-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.

The report highlights some notable regional and national developments. These include Southeast Asian countries becoming major solar PV manufacturing hubs and biofuels 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 10GW of solar PV, with many installation jobs, but remains heavily dependent on imported panels, according to the report.

Europe now accounts for about 40% of the world’s wind manufacturing output and is the most important exporter of wind power equipment, the report states, adding it is also 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 in the Western Hemisphere. Brazil remains the leading employer in biofuels but is also adding many jobs in wind and solar PV installations.

The report has also found that the USA is beginning to build a domestic industrial base for the budding offshore wind sector.

Francesco La Camera, IRENA’s director-general, said: “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.”

Published by IRENA, in collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO), the report highlights that the continued expansion of renewable energy needs can create many millions of new jobs if it is 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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