Renewable energy employment worldwide reached 11.5 million by the end of last year, led by solar power with 3.8 million jobs, according to a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) on Tuesday.
The seventh edition of Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2020 showed that employment in the renewable energy sector is continuing growth consistently. In 2012, renewable energy jobs stood at 7.3 million, and by the end of 2018 had expanded to 11 million.
Renewable jobs globally increased by around 500,000 last year, 63% of which were recorded in Asia, the report showed.
Nonetheless, IRENA’s Director-General Francesco La Camera emphasized the need to support renewable jobs at a time when the world is undergoing energy transformation.
"As the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, the close connections between the natural environment, our economies and human well-being have taken center stage. A clean, reliable energy supply and durable, healthy, low-carbon job creation are essential components to the transformative decarbonization of our societies," La Camera said.
The report revealed that China is listed as the top country in the world with 4.4 million renewable jobs and Brazil follows with 1.1 million, India has 824,000 and the US with 756,000 jobs.
Solar power became the leading renewable sector with 3.8 million jobs worldwide with China employing 2.2 million people in this sector alone. Japan, the US, India and Bangladesh remain among the top five countries for solar job creation.
The bioenergy sector followed the solar power industry with the employment of 3.6 million. Brazil, Indonesia, the US, Columbia and Thailand are shown as the top employers in bioenergy, according to IRENA.
Hydropower employed 2 million people worldwide with China, India and Brazil creating 59% of this total alone.
IRENA’s report said Turkey ranked eighth for hydropower employment with around 40,000 jobs, accounting for 2% of global jobs in the sector.
Approximately 1.2 million are employed in the global wind energy sector. China formed 44% of this workforce, followed by Germany, the US, India and the UK. The remaining 900,000 jobs were recorded in the geothermal, solar heating and cooling and other renewable sectors.
- Women hold 32% of total renewables jobs
According to the report, renewables jobs have shown more inclusion and a better gender balance than the fossil fuel industry. Women hold 32% of total renewables jobs, as opposed to 21% in the fossil fuel industry.
“Adopting renewables creates jobs and boosts local income in both developed and developing energy markets," La Camera said.
“While today we see a handful of countries in the lead, each country can harness its renewable potential, take steps to leverage local capabilities for industrial development, and train its workers," he noted.
- 5.5 million more jobs could be created in 3 years
Although precise estimates remain scarce and absolute numbers are small for now, off-grid renewables are creating growing employment, led by solar technology, according to the report.
"Decentralized renewable energy can also propel productive uses in rural areas. This job multiplier effect can be seen in farming and food processing, healthcare, communications, and local commerce," it said in the report.
Comprehensive policies, led by education and training measures, labor market interventions, and industrial policies that support the leveraging of local capacities, are essential for sustaining the renewables jobs expansion, according to IRENA.
"If countries now focus on supercharging the energy transition, many more such benefits are attainable. The post-COVID agenda put forward by the IRENA would create some 5.5 million transition-related jobs over the next three years, bring renewables jobs to nearly 30 million globally by 2030 and pave the way for longer-term resilience, development and equality," La Camera said.
IRENA’s recently-released Post-COVID Recovery Agenda found that an ambitious stimulus program could create up to 5.5 million more jobs over the next three years than a business-as-usual approach.
Such an initiative would also allow the world to stay on track to create 42 million renewables jobs that the IRENA's Global Renewables Outlook projects for 2050.
By Nuran Erkul Kaya