- IEA’s latest report sheds light on the global energy employment market that has gone up over pre-pandemic levels of over 65 million in 2019
- Clean energy employs over 50% of total energy workers with low carbon power generation, mainly solar and wind together employ 7.8 million, on par with oil supply
- China led jobs in the solar PV industry where mostly people work in manufacturing set up
- Report points out at the lack of labor protections and union representations in solar PV among other newer energy segments as the factors behind wages not being as high as other established industries as nuclear, oil and gas
In its 1st ever comprehensive report on employment in the energy sector, the International Energy Agency (IEA) sees clean energy surpassing the 50% mark for its share of total energy employment globally with solar PV employing an estimated 3.4 million in 2021, and China employing close to half of them.
Clean energy leads global employment in the energy sector that has gone up over pre-pandemic levels of over 65 million people or around 2% of the total labor force in 2019, according to the IEA’s World Energy Employment Report. Numbers are roughly divided as 21 million in fuel supply, 20 million in power sector and 24 million in end uses as energy efficiency and vehicle manufacturing.
Low carbon power generation sources, mainly wind and solar, employ 7.8 million on par with oil supply. In comparison, oil and gas sector saw ‘some of the largest declines’ in employment at the start of the pandemic and is yet to fully recover.
Asia Pacific holds more than half of energy employment. “This reflects rapidly expanding energy infrastructure in the region and access to lower-cost labor that has enabled the emergence of manufacturing hubs that serve both local and export markets, notably for solar, electric vehicles and batteries. China alone accounts for 30% of the global energy workforce,” reads the report.
People in solar PV jobs grew from more than 3 million employed in the industry in 2019 to an estimated 3.4 million in 2021. Apart from China where 260,000 are working in polysilicon, wafers, cells and modules production, North America had almost 280,000 workers and Europe over 260,000. As on grid and off grid solutions pick up pace, Africa has high potential for growth from around 50,000 it had employed in 2019.
A large majority of workers are engaged in manufacturing and installation of new PV capacity, while new investments are likely to split jobs in manufacturing and construction.
However, the report writers point out that since residential solar panels are often installed by construction workers and electricians in part time jobs, it can be difficult to count employees accurately.
In terms of wages, established industries as nuclear, oil and gas are seen as offering highest wages. “Newer segments, such as solar, do not have the same labor protections and union representation as established fossil fuel industries, especially in emerging market and developing economies,” according to the writers.
Speaking gender wise, women are ‘strongly under-represented in the energy sector accounting for only 16% of traditional energy sector and in senior management under 14% on an average. No major differences are seen in the share of female employment in fossil fuels and clean energy globally.
In the times to come energy sector will see its fastest employment growth even as 2022 is marred by high input costs and inflationary pressures adding to hiring and supply chain challenges, not to miss policy and challenges in various countries and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In its Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario, the report sees 14 million new clean energy jobs added globally by 2030 and another 16 million workers switch to new roles related to clean energy and better gender balance. Analysts do caution that policy makers should focus on job training and capacity building since new energy jobs may not always be in the same location and not need the same skills as the jobs they replace.
Policymakers must also ensure people-centered and just transition of affected workers as jobs move to low-carbon areas, especially coal.
“Governments, companies, labor representatives and educators must come together to develop the program and accreditations needed to cultivate this workforce and ensure the jobs created are quality jobs that can attract a diverse workforce,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol.
Full report is available on the IEA’s website.