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Renewable Energy Jobs Reach 12 Million Worldwide, Report Says

October 21, 2021 by Dan McCue
Workers install a photovoltaic panel in a solar array. (Photo courtesy the International Renewable Energy Agency)

The number of people working in the renewable energy sector worldwide reached 12 million last year, up from 11.3 million in 2019, according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency.

The eighth edition of “Renewable Energy and Jobs: Annual Review 2021,” was written and released in collaboration with the International Labour Organization.

“Renewable energy’s ability to create jobs and meet climate goals is beyond doubt. With COP26 in front of us, governments must raise their ambition to reach net zero,” said Francesco La Camera, IRENA Director-General in a written statement. 

“The only path forward is to increase investments in a just and inclusive transition, reaping the full socioeconomic benefits along the way,” La Camera said.

Like most employment and business reports looking at the past year, this year’s analysis of the renewable energy sector clearly shows the coronavirus pandemic caused project delays and supply chain disruptions, both which impact job creation.

While solar and wind jobs continued leading global employment growth in the renewable energy sector, accounting for 4 million and 1.25 million jobs respectively, liquid biofuels employment decreased as demand for transport fuels fell. 

Off-grid solar lighting sales also suffered, but companies were able to limit job losses.

On a country basis, China accounted for a 39% share of renewable energy jobs worldwide in 2020, followed by Brazil, India, the United States, and members of the European Union. 

Many other countries also saw a meaningful uptick in renewables job creation. 

Among them were Vietnam and Malaysia, key solar PV exporters; Indonesia and Colombia, with large agricultural supply chains for biofuels; and Mexico and the Russian Federation, where wind power is growing. 

In sub-Saharan Africa, solar jobs are expanding in diverse countries like Nigeria, Togo, and South Africa, the report said.

“The potential for renewable energy to generate decent work is a clear indication that we do not have to choose between environmental sustainability on the one hand, and employment creation on the other. The two can go hand-in-hand,” said ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder.

Looking forward, IRENA and the ILO suggest more jobs will be gained by the transition to renewable energy than lost. 

An ILO global sustainability scenario to 2030 estimates that the 24-25 million new jobs will far surpass losses of between six and seven million jobs. 

Some five million of the workers who lose their jobs will be able to find new jobs in the same occupation in another industry, the labor organization said.

Meanwhile, IRENA’s World Energy Transitions Outlook forecasts that the renewable energy sector could employ 43 million by 2050.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

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