As the renewables sector keeps growing, so is the number of people it provides jobs to.
As the renewables sector keeps growing, so is the number of people it provides jobs to. According to the new Renewable Energy and Jobs Review by IRENA, this number amounted to at least 11 million jobs in 2018, 700,000 more than in 2017.
Jobs in renewables emerge across a complex supply chain from the extraction of necessary metals to manufacture, trade, installation, and maintenance. Due to increasing complexity, shifts in geography are no surprise with countries in East Asia and Southeast Asia stepping up their PV exports market, thereby emerging as new competitors to China, Europe, and the U.S.
Growth has been particularly evident in Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, which has helped Asia earn the number 1 spot in job creation, with 60% of the new renewables jobs globally. Still, the largest share remains in China, which has 39% of all the renewable energy jobs worldwide.
Francesco La Camera, director-general of IRENA, believes the shift is not only due to rising climate ambitions, but also to the increased recognition of renewables as a low-carbon option for sustainable growth and creation of jobs, which is considered as a win-win by most governments. “As the global energy transformation gains momentum, this employment dimension reinforces the social aspect of sustainable development and provides yet another reason for countries to commit to renewables,” he says.
Solar PV grew faster than other renewables, keeping the top position and one-third of the market in terms of overall jobs created. Having recently expanded in India, Southeast Asia and Brazil, solar PV saw a decrease in jobs in China, the U.S., Japan, and Europe.
Wind power also kept growing, currently employing 1.2 million people globally, mostly on onshore projects, with China taking a lead ahead of Europe in offshore developments. Meanwhile, though hydropower kept its largest share of operating capacities, its growth has been rather modest.
The market is also keeping its non-homogenous features such as low mechanization of biofuel jobs in Brazil and Columbia and high mechanization in the U.S. and Europe. This should keep the questions of equal distribution of burdens and benefits on the agenda. In terms of gender equality, although only one third of workers in the sector are women, that rate is still higher than the average in the oil and gas industry.
The report’s authors emphasize the need to combine the further expansion of renewables with industrial and labor policies that support transparent and just supply chains, providing real benefits to national and local economies.