In 2021, global renewable energy jobs reached 12.7 million in a trend that’s set to continue. Despite fears of a severe decrease in fossil fuel jobs worldwide, as we transition to renewable energy, the good news is that opportunities in green energy increasing rapidly. The number of jobs in renewable energy grew by around 700,000 globally between 2020 and 2021, according to the Renewable Energy and Jobs Annual Review 2022 by IRENA and the ILO. Solar power currently provides the highest number of renewable energy jobs, at 4.3 million, around a third of the total jobs. The majority of green energy jobs come from China, around 42 percent, while the EU and Brazil both hold 10 percent of the world’s renewable energy jobs, and the USA and India each hold 7 percent. IRENA’s Director-General, Francesco La Camera, stated “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. 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.”
The biggest proportion of renewable energy jobs, following solar, is hydropower with 2.4 million jobs, biofuels with 2.4 million, and wind power with 1.3 million. The number of jobs in renewables is expected to soar to 38.2 million by 2030, based on the current rate of growth and project pipeline. The number of jobs has already risen substantially from 7.3 million in 2012.
A significant proportion of renewable energy jobs were in construction, installation, and operations and maintenance (O&M). With more and more large-scale solar and wind farms emerging, as well as other green energy operations, the need for the building and maintenance of key infrastructure is clear. There were 257 GW of renewable electricity installed in 2021, meaning growth in cumulative capacity of 9 percent. And solar and wind power made up 88 percent of this expansion.
The ILO’s Director-General, Guy Ryder, highlighted a change in the types of opportunities becoming available in the energy sector, in the transition away from fossil fuel operations to green energy projects. He explained, “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.” Further, “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,” he stated.
The growth in renewable energy jobs is helping to make up for the huge loss of oil and gas jobs worldwide. The number of job losses in the energy industry rose significantly during the Covid pandemic, as operations were forced to shut down due to lockdowns and other restrictions on work and movement. Further, several energy companies were forced into bankruptcy, meaning permanent job cuts. However, many oil and gas workers have extensive skills and experience in energy operations, which they are lending to renewable energy projects. Many countries are now offering re-training options for energy workers. For example, as part of the U.K.’s transition plan, it is developing a “people and skills” plan for workers looking to transition to the renewable energy sector. Some companies, such as BP and Equinor, are footing the costs of retraining staff who want to make the switch.
The U.K. is seeing its renewable energy jobs grow four times faster than the rest of its employment market. Recent reports suggest that 2.2 percent of all new U.K. jobs are classified as “green”. And according to PWC, the number of green jobs advertised increased threefold in 2021, at 336,000 roles. Although, these positions continue to be found primarily in the London job market, centred mainly around professional and scientific opportunities.
And in the U.S., the United States Energy & Employment Report 2022 revealed that the number of green jobsincreased in every energy sector. Around 3 million of the 7.8 million energy jobs in the U.S. fell under areas aligned with the country’s climate goals. Renewable energy jobs in 2021 made up about 40% of total energy jobs. There were 23,577 new jobs in the hybrid electric vehicle sector, as well as 17,740 jobs added in the energy efficiency sector, which covers green technologies for heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
Despite pessimism over the loss of fossil fuel jobs worldwide, the sharp rise in renewable energy jobs offers hope to workers in the sector looking to retrain, as well as for young graduates seeking innovative opportunities in the energy sector. As the market continues to grow, the number of global green energy jobs is set to rise substantially over the next few years and continue to increase for decades to come.
By Felicity Bradstock for Oilprice.com
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