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Renewable energy jobs hit 12.7 million in 2021 amid green transition efforts

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Jobs in the renewable energy sector rose about 6 per cent in 2021, despite supply chain challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic, a new report has found.

The renewable energy sector generated 12.7 million jobs last year, up from 12 million during the previous year, with solar projects accounting for most employment generation, a report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) and the International Labor Organization found on Thursday.

Renewable energy employment generation could jump to 38.2 million in 2030 under an “ambitious energy transition scenario with front-loaded investments”, the report said.

“In the face of numerous challenges, renewable energy jobs remain resilient and have been proven to be a reliable job creation engine,” said Francesco La Camera, Irena’s director general.

“My advice to governments around the world is to pursue industrial policies that encourage the expansion of decent renewable jobs at home. Spurring a domestic value chain will not only create business opportunities and new jobs for people and local communities. It also bolsters supply chain reliability and contributes to more energy security overall.”

The solar sector accounted for more than a third of the total renewable energy workforce with 4.3 million jobs in 2021, followed by hydropower and biofuels with 2.4 million jobs each, while employment in the wind energy sector reached 1.3 million last year, according to the report .

Almost two thirds of all these jobs were in Asia with China alone accounting for 42 per cent of the global total, followed by the EU and Brazil with 10 per cent each, and the USA and India with 7 per cent each.

The International Energy Agency, in a report this month, also highlighted increased hiring in the clean energy sector. Clean energy accounts for more than half of the 65 million energy sector jobs, as a result of the substantial growth of new projects coming online, the Paris-based agency said in a report this month.

Worldwide, some 257 gigawatts of renewable electricity were installed in 2021, expanding cumulative capacity by 9 per cent to a total of 3068 gigawatts with solar and wind power accounting for 88 per cent of the total expansion, at 133 gigawatts and 93 gigawatts growth, respectively , according to the report.

In contrast, hydropower capacity grew by just 25 gigawatts in 2021, the same pace as in 2020, and bioenergy expanded by 10 gigawatts in each of the last two years.

The report comes as governments across the globe focus on developing new renewable energy projects to cut emissions. A number of countries have announced net-zero targets in the coming decades and are investing heavily in clean energy projects.

Global investment in the renewable energy sector climbed 11 per cent to $226 billion in the first half of 2022, according to a new report by research company BloombergNEF earlier this year.

Investment in new large- and small-scale solar projects rose 33 per cent to a record-breaking $120bn, while wind project financing grew 16 per cent to $84bn, the report said in August.

The Irena and ILO report also said southeast Asian countries are becoming major solar photovoltaic manufacturing hubs and biofuel producers as they launch new projects and expand clean energy capacity.

China, the world’s second-largest economy, is the “pre-eminent manufacturer” and installer of solar PV panels and is also creating a growing number of jobs in offshore wind energy projects. India, Asia’s third-largest economy also added more than 10 gigawatts of solar power capacity last year, generating many installation jobs, but “remains heavily dependent” on imported panels, the report said.

Europe accounts for about 40 per cent of the world’s wind manufacturing output and is the “most important” exporter of wind power equipment, according to the report. Africa’s role is still limited, but the report points out that there are growing job opportunities in “decentralised renewables, especially in support of local commerce, agriculture, and other economic activities”.

In the Americas, Mexico is the leading supplier of wind turbine blades, while Brazil remains the leading employer in biofuels and is also adding many jobs in wind and solar PV installations.

The US is beginning to build a domestic industrial base for the budding offshore wind sector, the report said.

“With rising concerns about climate change, Covid-19 recovery and supply chain disruption, national interest is growing in localising supply chains and creating jobs at home…strong domestic markets are key to anchoring a drive towards clean energy industrialisation,” the report got

Updated: September 22, 2022, 3:24 PM

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