ENERGIA LIMPIA XXI. Renewable energy continues to bring socio-economic benefits by creating numerous jobs worldwide, according to the latest figures released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) today. The seventh edition of Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review shows that jobs in the sector reached 11.5 million globally 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,” said IRENA’s Director-General Francesco La Camera. “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.” Energía Limpia XXI magazine states that according the IRENA’s report Brazil registered in 2019 almost 839 000 jobs, becoming the world’s largest liquid biofuels workforce.
Brazil has an
estimated 1.2 million
jobs. As in previous
years, the country
remains the world’s
largest employer in biofuels. Output of fuel ethanol is
driven by tax incentives and a mandate of 27% ethanol
content in gasoline. Feedstock production set new
records in 2018 and 2019, with 30.3 billion litres and
31.4 billion litres of sugarcane, respectively (USDAFAS, 2019c).
New installations in Brazil’s solar heating market increased by 6% in 2018 (ABRASOL, 2020), and
employment is estimated to have increased to 43 900 jobs.16 Brazil’s solar PV installations have been rising rapidly since 2017. With new additions of about 2 GW in 2019, total capacity was close to 4.5 GW (ABSOLAR, 2020). IRENA estimates employment at about 43 200 jobs in 2019.17 The distributed solar PV segment, which includes systems up to 5 MW under Brazil’s net-metering scheme, is estimated to account for around two-thirds of capacity additions and 85% of
solar PV jobs in 2019.
Brazil also has great number when it comes to hydropower, the results reveal that approximately 1.93 million people worldwide worked in the sector in 2019. China, India and Brazil are the largest employers, followed by Pakistan, Viet Nam, the Russian Federation and Myanmar.
Last year, sixty-three per cent of all renewables jobs were recorded in Asia, confirming the region’s status as a market leader, the new report reveals. Biofuels jobs followed closely behind solar PV, reaching 2.5 million. Many of these jobs are in the agricultural supply chain, particularly in countries like Brazil, Colombia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand, with labour-intensive operations. Other large employers in the renewables sector are the hydropower and wind industries, with close to 2 million and 1.2 million jobs, respectively.
Renewables jobs have shown more inclusion and a better gender balance than fossil fuels. The report highlights that women held 32 per cent of total renewables jobs, as opposed to 21 per cent in fossil fuels sectors.
Although precise estimates remain scarce and absolute numbers are small for now, off-grid renewables are creating growing employment, led by solar technology. Decentralised renewable energy can also propel productive uses in rural areas. This job multiplier effect can be seen in farming and food processing, healthcare, communications, and local commerce.
Comprehensive policies, led by education and training measures, labour market interventions, and industrial policies that support the leveraging of local capacities, are essential for sustaining the renewables jobs expansion.
The 2020 edition of the Annual Review highlights promising initiatives to support the education and training of workers. Such efforts revolve around vocational training, curricula-building, teacher training, the use of information and communications technology, promotion of innovative public-private partnerships, and recruitment of under-represented groups such as women.
Policymakers must also prioritise reskilling for fossil fuel sector workers who have lost or are at risk of losing their livelihoods. Many have considerable skills and expertise to contribute to a reoriented, clean energy industry.
The world has seen encouraging growth in renewables jobs. But it can bring about much larger employment by adopting a comprehensive policy framework that drives the energy transition. Never has the importance of such a push been clearer than at this momentous juncture. Even as the world is still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, humanity receives near-daily reminders of what lies in store if we fail to address the gathering climate disruptions.
The need to chart a different course is undeniable, as are the benefits to be reaped. IRENA’s recently-released Post-COVID Recovery Agenda found that an ambitious stimulus programme could create up to 5.5 million more jobs over the next three years than a business-as-usual approach. Such an initiative would also allow the world to stay on track for creating the 42 million renewables jobs that the agency’s Global Renewables Outlook projects for 2050.