Global employment in the renewable energy sector reached 12.7 million jobs in 2021, an increase of 700,000 new jobs in one year, despite the lingering effects of covid-19, according to a report released by the ILO.
The director general of the ILO (International Labour Organization ), Guy Ryder, said that “beyond the figures, more and more attention is being paid to the quality of jobs and working conditions in renewable energies, to guarantee decent and productive employment.
In particular, “the growing share of female employment suggests that targeted policies and training can significantly improve women’s participation in renewable energy occupations, inclusion and ultimately achieve a just transition for all.”
The report “Renewable Energy and Jobs: Annual Review 2022 ( Renewable energies and jobs: annual review 2022 )” was prepared together with the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), the intergovernmental organization that supports countries in their transition to a future of sustainable energy.
The analysis identifies the size of the national market as an important factor influencing job creation in renewable energy, along with labour and other costs.
It records that solar energy is the fastest-growing sector, and in 2021 it provided 4.3 million jobs, more than a third of the current global workforce in renewable energy.
Wind power employs 1.3 million people, hydropower 2.4 million, and bioenergy 3.4 million. It is estimated that in 2030 the sector could employ 38 million of the 139 million people who would then be employed in energy.
With growing concern about climate change, the post-Covid recovery and supply chain disruption, there is growing national interest in locating those chains and creating jobs at home, according to the report.
Another prominent factor in the picture is the development of export capabilities for renewable technologies.
An increasing number of countries are creating jobs in the renewable energy sector, and nearly two-thirds of all those jobs are in Asia.
China alone represents 42% of the world total, followed by the European Union and Brazil, with 10% each, and the United States and India, each with seven per cent.
Examining notable regional and national developments, the report finds that Southeast Asian countries are becoming major solar photovoltaic manufacturing centres and biofuel producers.
China is the leading manufacturer and installer of photovoltaic solar panels and is creating a growing number of jobs in the offshore wind sector.
India added more than 10 gigawatts of solar PV, generating many installation jobs, but remains heavily reliant on imported panels.
Europe now accounts for about 40% of global wind power production, is the largest exporter of wind power equipment, and is trying to reconstitute its solar photovoltaic manufacturing industry.
Africa’s role is still limited, but the report notes that there are growing job opportunities in decentralized renewable energy, especially in support of local trade, agriculture and other economic activities.
In the Americas, Mexico is the main supplier of wind turbine blades, and Brazil remains the main employer of biofuels, although it is also adding many jobs in wind and solar photovoltaic installations.
The United States is beginning to create a national industrial base for the nascent offshore wind sector.
The report stresses that the expansion of renewable energy must be supported by comprehensive policy packages, including worker training to ensure that jobs are decent, high-quality, well-paid and diverse in pursuit of a just transition.
Francesco La Camera, CEO of Irena, said that “in the face of numerous challenges, renewable energy jobs remain resilient and have proven to be a reliable engine of job creation.”
“My advice to governments around the world is to implement industrial policies that encourage the expansion of decent jobs in the field of renewable energy in the country,” said La Camera.
Ryder, for his part, said that “I encourage governments and workers’ and employers’ organizations to remain firmly committed to a sustainable energy transition, essential for the future of work.”
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