Despite the lingering impacts of Covid and the growing energy crisis, people employed globally in the renewable energy sector reached 12.7 million last year, an increase of 700,000 new jobs in just 12 months, according to a new report.
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 workforce in renewable energy, said the study “Renewable Energy and Jobs: Annual Review 2022” published by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in collaboration with the UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO).
Domestic market size, along with labour and other costs, is one of the key variables influencing job growth in the renewable energy sector.
Countries are now looking inward to boost job creation at home, focusing on domestic supply networks amid growing concerns about climate change, Covid recovery, and supply chain disruption.
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 percent of the global total, according to the report, followed by the European Union and Brazil with 10 percent each, and the US and India with seven percent 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.
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 there are growing job opportunities in decentralised renewables. 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.
ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said: “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.”
IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera 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,” he added.
“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.”