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ABU DHABI: June 13, 2019. According to new data from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), 11 million people were employed in the global renewables sector last year – up from 10.3 million in 2017.

As more and more countries manufacture, trade and install renewable energy technologies, IRENA’s latest review says renewables jobs grew to their highest level despite slower growth in key markets including China.

However the diversification of the renewable energy supply chain is changing the sector’s geographic footprint as East and Southeast Asian countries emerge alongside China as key exporters of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels. Countries including Malaysia, Thailand and Viet Nam were responsible for a greater share of growth in renewables jobs last year, which allowed Asia to maintain a 60 percent share of renewable energy jobs worldwide.

NorSea Wind services“Beyond climate goals, governments are prioritising renewables as a driver of low-carbon economic growth in recognition of the numerous employment opportunities created by the transition to renewables,” commented Francesco La Camera, director general of IRENA. “Renewables deliver on all main pillars of sustainable development – environmental, economic and social. As the global energy transformation gains momentum, this employment dimension reinforces the social aspect of sustainable development and provides yet another reason for countries to commit to renewables.”

The IRENA report says solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind remain the most dynamic of all renewable energy industries, with PV accounting for one-third of the total renewable energy workflow ahead of liquid biofuels, hydropower, and wind power. Geographically, Asia hosts over three million PV jobs, nearly 90 percent of the global total. Last year, employment grew in India, Southeast Asia and Brazil, while China, the US, Japan and the European Union declined.

Most of the wind industry’s activity still occurs on land and is responsible for the bulk of the sector’s 1.2 million jobs. China alone accounts for 44 per cent of global wind employment, followed by Germany and the US.

Offshore wind could be an especially attractive option for leveraging domestic capacity and exploiting synergies with the oil and gas industry, says IRENA. While onshore projects still dominate, the offshore segment is gaining traction and could build on expertise and infrastructure in the sector.

Regional activity:

  • Renewable energy deployment in Africa is still comparatively small, with only 4.0 percent of solar PV jobs worldwide, but off-grid solar has already generated more than 100,000 full-time equivalent jobs in Sub-Saharan Africa, a number that is set to multiply in coming years.
  • China leads the world in renewable energy installations and accounts for more than a third of global renewable energy deployment and 4.1 million jobs.
  • Employment in France’s wind sector expanded 37 percent from 2014 to 2017 to about 17, 000 jobs supported by a diversified industrial base of over 1,000 firms.
  • Germany has the largest renewable energy workforce in Europe with nearly 291, 000 jobs. German firms are leaders in onshore and offshore wind development serving domestic and export markets and employed nearly 141,000 people in 2017.
  • Japan’s solar PV installations reached 55.5 GW in 2018, the second largest capacity after China. However, the pace of new installations has since declined due to lower feed-in tariffs, land shortages and grid constraints.
  • In Latin America, Mexico, Chile and Argentina are the largest renewables actors after Brazil. The region also accounts for half of all biofuel jobs worldwide with Brazil as the single largest employer and Colombia the fourth largest. Notably, says IRENA, solar PV capacity in Mexico quadrupled in 2018 to reach 2.5 GW and Argentina’s adoption of renewable energy auctions helped mobilise the private sector, increasing the number of jobs.

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