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IRENA sees more jobs generated from energy transition than lost

In its new Renewable Energy and Jobs Annual review 2021, IRENA predicts the energy transition will see 25 million new green jobs created by 2030, surpassing the seven million lost due to the pandemic.

Following the 1.5ºC pathway will result in the creation of approximately 38 million new positions within the renewables sector and 43 million by 2050, states the report. Of these, the solar segment will account for a lion’s share with 19.9 million, followed by the bio-energy sector which is anticipated to create 13.7 million new positions.

The IRENA report, compiled in partnership with the International Labour Organisation, found that despite the negative impacts of the pandemic in 2020, the number of jobs within the renewable energy sector increased to 12 million in 2020 up from 11.5 million in 2019.

China and the solar industry accounted for a majority share of the new jobs created in 2020. The hydropower sector accounted for three million job positions and the wind sector with 1,25 million jobs.

Many countries are creating jobs in renewables. Among them are Viet Nam and Malaysia, key solar PV exporters; Indonesia and Colombia, with large agricultural supply chains for biofuels; and Mexico and the Russian Federation, where wind power is growing. In Sub-Saharan Africa, solar jobs are expanding in diverse countries like Nigeria, Togo and South Africa.

IRENA calls for more jobs for women in the energy transition

Recognising that women suffered more from the pandemic because they tend to work in sectors more vulnerable to economic shocks, the report highlights the importance of a just transition and decent jobs for all, ensuring that jobs pay a living wage, workplaces are safe, and rights at work are respected.

A just transition requires a workforce that is diverse – with equal chances for women and men, and with career paths open to youth, minorities, and marginalised groups. International Labour Standards and collective bargaining arrangements are crucial in this context.

During the launch of the report, Francesco La Camera, director-general of IRENA, highlighted the need for governments to introduce policies that encourage renewable energy investments in a just and inclusive manner. He stressed the need for the inclusion of women and underrepresented communities in decision making and job creation and placement.

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La Camera urged governments and energy stakeholders to invest more in educating women with STEM skills and ensure their job training and placement is a key focus.

He reiterated: “Renewable energy’s ability to create jobs and meet climate goals is beyond doubt. With COP26 in front of us, governments must raise their ambition to reach net zero. The only path forward is to increase investments in a just and inclusive transition, reaping the full socioeconomic benefits along the way.”

Martha E. Newton, deputy director-general of policy at the International Labour Organisation, added: Going beyond the number of jobs is critical to achieve the social-economic benefits of renewables, freedom, equity and security.

“A wide range of policies are required to ensure social protection, workers rights, inclusion to support female participation in the energy transition”

Other key findings of the study include:

  • COVID-19 caused delays and supply chain disruptions and impacted jobs differently in various countries and end-use.
  • Liquid biofuels employment decreased as demand for transport fuels fell.
  • Off-grid solar lighting sales suffered, but companies were able to limit job losses.
  • Women suffered more from the pandemic because they tend to work in sectors more vulnerable to economic shocks.

Read the Renewable Energy and Jobs Annual review 2021 report.

Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl
Nicolette is the Editor of ESI Africa print journal, ESI-Africa.com and the annual African Power & Energy Elites. She is passionate about placing African countries on the international stage and is driven by the motto "The only way to predict the future is to create it". Join her in creating a sustainable future through articles and multimedia content.