A decade of progress: Renewables jobs on the rise

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Renewable energy jobs soar to 13.7 million in 2022, almost double in 10 years

As the energy transition progresses, jobs in renewable energy continue to grow.

The global total reached 13.7 million in 2022, up from 12.7 million in 2021.

In the last 10 years, employment in renewable energy has almost doubled.

Solar and wind power remain the most dynamic

Solar PV and wind attract the bulk of the world’s renewable energy investments and are thus most dynamic.

Solar PV is still the fastest-growing sector with almost 4.9 million jobs in 2022, more than a third of the total workforce in the renewable energy sector.

Hydropower and biofuels created similar numbers of jobs as in 2021, around 2.5 million each, followed by wind power with 1.4 million jobs.

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DRE creates opportunities for a varied skill-set

Decentralised solutions not only provide reliable power but offer employment opportunities as well, including in remote areas.

Small-scale hydropower, for instance, requires anywhere from 17 000 person-days (for a pico plant, which averages 5 kilowatts [kW]), to about 64 000 person-days (for a 50 kW micro plant), to over 160 000 person-days (for a 500 kW mini plant) along the value chain.

The demand for skilled workers creates many opportunities for a varied set of skills, allowing for local skill building and fostering enterprise development.

The expansion of the decentralised renewable energy job market has a positive multiplier effect, benefiting local economies, reducing poverty and fostering social development.

Market leaders retain their status

Jobs remain concentrated in a relatively small number of countries, reflecting the uneven geographic footprint of capacity installations, manufacturing of equipment, engineering and associated services.

Close to two-thirds of all jobs are in Asia, where China alone accounts for 41% of the global total.

Half of the world’s new wind power capacity and 45% of solar PV capacity were installed in China. In wind, China was followed by the United States, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden and France. In solar PV, the United States, India, Brazil, the Netherlands and Germany followed.

Solar sector employs more women than other renewables

At 40% of the full-time positions, women’s representation is higher in the solar PV workforce than in other renewable energy technologies, and almost twice as much as in the oil and gas sector.

Greater gender equity is essential to accelerate a fairer and more equitable energy transition.

Education and training must be expanded to prevent the widening of skill gaps. Efforts must be made to tap a wider pool of talent, by providing under-represented groups – women, youth and minorities – with equal access to career paths in the historically male-dominated energy industry.

Growing use of industrial policies can create more localised supply chains

Many countries are showing increased interest in localising supply chains - to guard against disruptions in global supply chains, but also to create more jobs domestically.

This has led to a resurgence of industrial policy-making, to enhance local capacities and stimulate domestic manufacturing. Among such efforts are initiatives in the the EU, India, Japan, South Africa and the US.

Meanwhile, a number of resource-rich countries are taking steps to play a bigger role in the energy transition, moving beyond being suppliers of raw materials.

ILO guidelines framework

IRENA produces the Jobs Review in collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Both agencies stress that the transition from fossil fuels to a cleaner energy future needs to be just and inclusive in relation to workers, enterprises and communities.

The ILO’s 2015 “Guidelines for a just transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all” serve as a central reference for policy making.

In 2023, the International Labour Conference elaborated a practical framework for action based on four building blocks: promoting inclusive, sustainable and job-rich economies; advancing social justice; managing the just transition process and financing a just transition.

A Holistic policy framework for a just and fair energy transition

For the energy transition to deliver broad socio-economic benefits, advancing equity among countries and communities, and aligning economies with climate and resource constraints, governments and other stakeholders will have to play a proactive role in transforming economic systems.

Policy making must be inspired by a holistic framework that not only considers the technological but also socio-economic dimension of the transition.

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