In spite of the continuing effects of COVID-19 and the growing energy crisis, a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO) has indicated that worldwide employment in renewable energy reached 12.7 million last year, an increase of 700,000 new jobs in one year.
This is in line with the findings of Renewable Energy and Jobs: Annual Review 2022, which found that market dynamics, along with labor and other costs, were significant factors influencing the creation of jobs in the renewable energy sector. The study found that solar energy was the fastest-growing industry. More than a third of the world’s renewable energy workforce was supported by this sector in 2021.
Interest in domestic job creation and supply chain localization has increased in response to rising national concerns about climate change, post-COVID-19 recovery, and supply chain disruption. The report emphasizes the importance of robust home markets in securing the push toward clean energy industrialization. It also notes that this is necessary for the growth of export capacities for renewable technologies.
According to Francesco La Camera, IRENA’s director general, “renewable energy jobs remain resilient, and have proven to be a reliable job creation engine, despite numerous challenges. My recommendation to governments everywhere is to pursue industrial policies that boost domestic renewable energy employment. Boosting the domestic value chain will benefit not only businesses but also individuals and communities. Further, it improves energy security and the dependability of supply chains”
The report demonstrates that a growing number of nations are providing employment opportunities in the renewables sector. According to the latest data, nearly two-thirds of these positions can be found in Asia. The European Union and Brazil each contribute 10%, the United States and India each contribute 7%, and China alone accounts for 42% of the global total.
“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,” said Guy Ryder, director-general of the International Labor Organization. “With women making up a larger percentage of the workforce, it stands to reason that with the right policies and training, we can increase the number of women working in the renewable energy sector, broaden participation, and ultimately bring about a just transition. I hope that governments, labor unions, and business groups will continue to work together toward a sustainable energy transition, which is crucial to the future of employment”.
Some significant local, regional, and national trends are highlighted in the report. The countries in Southeast Asia, for example, have great potential to become biofuels producers and solar PV manufacturing hubs. The offshore wind industry in China is expanding rapidly, and the country is the world leader in PV panel production and installation. Even though the country has added over 10 GW of solar PV and created many new jobs in the installation sector, it still relies heavily on foreign-made solar cells and modules.
Europe is currently the largest exporter of wind power equipment, accounting for about 40% of global production, and is working to revive its solar photovoltaic manufacturing sector. Although Africa has yet to play a significant role, the report does highlight the expanding number of job opportunities in distributed renewables, which are increasingly important for sustaining local commerce, agriculture, and other economic activities.
Wind turbine blades are primarily produced in Mexico, making it the leading supplier in the Western Hemisphere. While biofuels continue to be Brazil’s largest source of employment, the country is also rapidly expanding its wind and solar PV industries. To support its emerging offshore wind industry, the United States is establishing a domestic industrial base.
In order to achieve a just transition, the report emphasizes that supporting the growth of renewable energy needs with comprehensive policy packages, such as training for workers, can result in the creation of many millions of new jobs.