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Renewable energy jobs continue growth to 11.5M worldwide

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According to the latest statistics published by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), renewable energy continues to bring socio-economic benefits by generating a number of jobs worldwide.

The seventh edition of ‘Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Analysis’ shows that employment in the sector reached 11,5 million jobs worldwide last year, led by solar PV with some 3,8 million jobs, or a third of the total.

“Adopting renewables creates jobs and boosts local income in both developed and developing energy markets. While today we see a handful of countries in the lead, each country can harness its renewable potential, take steps to leverage local capabilities for industrial development, and train its workers.”

Francesco La Camera,  IRENA’s director-general. 

Last year, sixty-three percent of all renewable jobs were reported in Asia, reinforcing the region’s position as a market leader, according to the new report. Biofuels jobs have been closely tracked by solar PV, exceeding 2.5 million.

Many of these jobs are in the agricultural supply chain, especially in countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Malaysia , the Philippines and Thailand, with labor-intensive operations. Other big employers in the renewables sector are the hydropower and wind industries, with nearly 2 million and 1,2 million jobs respectively.

Renewable jobs have shown greater convergence and a stronger gender representation than fossil fuels. The study points out that women accounted for 32 percent of total renewable jobs, compared to 21 percent in the fossil fuel market.

Although reliable figures remain scarce and absolute numbers are currently limited, off-grid renewables are generating the jobs, powered by solar energy. Decentralized renewable energy can also encourage efficient usage in rural areas. This multiplier effect can be seen in agriculture and food manufacturing, health care, communications and local trade.

Comprehensive policies, driven by education and training initiatives, labor market interventions and industrial policies that promote local capacity building, are necessary to maintain the expansion of renewable employment.

The 2020 Annual Review outlines successful programs to promote the education and training of staff. Such programs are aimed at vocational training, curricula-building, teacher training, the use of information and communications technologies, the promotion of new public-private collaborations and the recruitment of under-represented groups such as women.

Policymakers must also prioritize reskilling for employees in the fossil fuel industry who have lost or are at risk of losing their livelihoods. Many people have significant skills and experience to contribute to a reoriented, renewable energy industry.

The world has seen promising growth in green employment. But it can contribute to even greater jobs by implementing a comprehensive policy structure that drives the energy transition. The significance of such a drive has never been clearer than at this momentous juncture. Even as the planet is still grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, humanity receives almost constant reminders about what’s in store if we fail to fix the gathering about climate disturbances.

There is no denying the need to chart a new path, as are the rewards to be reaped. IRENA’s newly published Post-COVID Recovery Agenda found that an aggressive stimulus package could generate up to 5.5 million more jobs over the next three years than a business-as – usual approach. Such an effort will also make it possible for the world to remain on track to build the 42 million renewable jobs that Global Renewables Outlook is preparing for 2050.

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