By Houmi Ahamed-Mikidache
The number of jobs in the renewable energy sector has doubled in 10 years. According to a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), the number of jobs increased from 7.3 million in 2012 to 13 million,7 million in 2022, including an increase of one million compared to 2021. This tenth edition of the series entitled “Renewable Energy and Jobs: Annual Review 2023” is presented as the result of ongoing collaboration between the two agencies.
However, the study notes that these jobs remain concentrated in a small number of countries, particularly China. In this country, renewable energy jobs account for 41% of the global total, according to the report. Brazil, the European Union (EU) Member States, India and the United States of America also generate jobs in this sector. Together, they represent the majority of global capacity facilities and play a key role in equipment manufacturing, engineering and related services.
Photovoltaic remains the main provider of jobs
According to 2022 figures, solar photovoltaic is once again the main source of jobs, with 4.9 million jobs, or more than a third of the total workforce in the renewable energy sector. In the fields of hydropower and biofuels, the number of jobs is similar to that of 2021, about 2.5 million each. Wind energy accounts for 1.4 million jobs.
A new record was set in 2022, with the addition of 191.4 GW of solar photovoltaic capacity
China represents 45% of these facilities, or 86 GW, followed by the United States, India and Brazil. The Netherlands, Germany, Japan, Spain, Australia and the Republic of Korea complete the top 10 (IRENA, 2023b). China is home to the vast majority of global photovoltaic solar panel manufacturing, supported by global industrial policies. This country maintains a strategic position of diversified supply chain, with ingots and wafers to cells and modules. But, paradoxically, China is also known to produce a lot of greenhouse gases.
For Francesco La Camera, IRENA’s Director General, an accelerated pace of investment in energy transition technologies is needed to create millions more jobs. ‘ Earlier this month, G20 leaders committed to accelerating efforts to triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030, which is in line with our recommendations prior to COP28. I call on all policymakers to seize this opportunity to adopt ambitious policies to make the necessary systemic changes,’ he said when presenting the report.
But the path to the growing green is fraught with pitfalls. According to the International Energy Agency, fossil fuel subsidies increased by 85% in 2022,” said Rana Adib, director of REN21, on the radio podcast Era Environnement “Your Voice” last June.
40% of positions in solar technology are held by women
The 2023 report draws attention to another issue, that of human resources. The study refers to the need to strengthen education and training. The report highlights the importance of improving career prospects for young people, minorities and marginalized groups. It also calls for greater equality between men and women and describes current inequalities. Of all sectors, only the solar technology sector currently has the best balance between men and women, with 40% of the latter, the study notes.
This study underlines that the quality of jobs counts as much as their quantity. The energy transition, the authors specify, must go through a social and inclusive justice integrating workers, companies and communities. Indeed, an effective social dialogue on wages, safety and health and workers’ rights is essential, the report says. It also indicates that the ILO Guiding Principles for a Just Transition to Ecologically Sustainable Economies and Societies for All are a central reference for the formulation of policies and actions for a just transition, on which governments and other stakeholders can build.
“In order to seize the considerable chances of achieving full, productive and freely chosen employment, social inclusion and decent work for all in these complex transitions, it is necessary to develop and implement specific policies for inclusive macroeconomic growth, sustainable business creation, skills development, among other active labour market interventions, social protection, safety and health at work and other workers’ rights, as well as finding new solutions through social dialogue,’ said ILO Director-General Gilbert F. Houngbo in the publication of the study.