IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency) and ILO’s (International Labour Organization) most recent renewable energy jobs report (Renewable Energy and Jobs, Annual Review 2021) claims that globally there were 12 million renewable energy jobs in 2020, having grown from 11.5 million in 2019, and this happened despite the pandemic. Jobs were led by solar PV technology.
Photovoltaics recorded further growth. According to the report, the number of jobs increased from 3.75 to 3.98 million. This makes solar the largest job creator globally. It is followed by bioenergy* with 3.52 million jobs – a slight decline from 2019.
Globally, China accounts for the most jobs with a 39 percent share, followed by Brazil, India, the U.S. and the EU. In the solar sector, 2.3 of the nearly 4 million jobs are in China, accounting for 58 percent. The U.S. and Japan follow with just over 200,000 employees. Germany is ranked ninth.
The report also states that the installation of photovoltaic systems creates about 3500 full-time jobs per gigawatt.
The potential of renewable energy to create decent jobs is a clear indication that we do not have to choose between environmental sustainability on the one hand and job creation on the other. The two can go hand in hand, according to Guy Ryder, director general of the ILO.
IRENA stresses that realizing the employment potential in the renewables sector also depends on ambitious policies. In addition to implementing, enabling, and integrating policies for the sector itself, structural barriers in the broader economy must be overcome and potential imbalances between job losses and gains during the transition have to be minimized. ILO has made estimates in a global sustainability scenario that by 2030, some 24 to 25 million new jobs created will far outweigh the loss of six to seven million jobs. About five million people who lose their jobs would also find a new job in the same occupation in a different industry.
IRENA expects a total of 43 million people to be employed in the renewables sector by 2050.
In addition, the Corona crisis, with its disruptions to global supply chains, has highlighted the important role of domestic value creation. Strengthening it promotes job and income creation at the local level by leveraging existing and new economic activities, according to IRENA. A total of five points are identified as necessary to strengthen domestic value addition, adds IRENA: industrial policies to develop viable supply chains; education and training strategies to create a skilled workforce; active labor market policies to provide adequate employment services; retraining and recertification along with social protection to support workers and communities dependent on fossil fuels; and, last but not least, public investment strategies to promote regional economic development and diversification.
In summary, this means that in the coming years, the energy transition will remain a massive job engine globally.