Employment opportunities are a key consideration in planning for a low-carbon economy. Many governments have prioritised renewable energy development, firstly to reduce emissions and meet international climate goals, but also in pursuit of broader socio-economic benefits.
Since its first report on Renewable Energy and Jobs, published in 2013, IRENA has carried out an annual update to its assessment of renewable energy employment worldwide. This most recent report estimates that about 12 million people were employed in the sector, directly and indirectly, in 2020. Renewable energy employment worldwide has continued to grow since IRENA initiated its annual review; the first edition estimated 7.3 million in 2012. Solar PV leads the field and accounts today for some 4 million jobs, providing power from large scale installations feeding into the grid as well as from small, off-grid applications which enable much-needed access to electricity to previously remote and energy-poor communities. Although off-grid sales took a hit from COVID-19 in 2020, they will be key to powering farming, food processing and healthcare. Wind energy now employs 1.25 million people, with an increasing number of people in operations and maintenance and in offshore wind energy sector.
This special edition discusses how employment generation rides on countries’ abilities to build and strengthen domestic supply chains and highlights the increasing need for expanding skills in all regions of the world to create a capable renewable energy workforce. In addition, the importance of decent jobs is discussed. This will not manifest without further ambitious policy support and investments in a future-oriented climate-safe, and just energy transition pathway, and therefore, the report finalises with the policy framework required, bringing together labour market incentives, industrial policies, and further needs to adopt social protection measures.
The 2021 Annual Review is a special edition in that it is based on a collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO). It presents not only jobs findings for 2020, but also offers highlights of IRENA’s work modeling the employment implications of the agency’s energy transition scenarios to 2050.See an interactive story on How Renewables Power 12 million Jobs Globally