Annual Review 2021 of IRENA on Renewable Energy and Jobs
Employment opportunities are an important aspect of planning for a low-carbon economy. Many governments have prioritised the expansion of renewable energy, both to reduce emissions and meet international climate targets, but also to achieve broader socio-economic benefits.
Since its first report on renewable energy and jobs, published in 2013, IRENA has updated its assessment of global renewable energy employment annually. This latest report estimates that by 2020, about 12 million people will be directly and indirectly employed in the sector. The number of people employed in the renewable energy sector worldwide has continued to grow since IRENA began its annual review; the first edition estimated 7.3 million in 2012. Photovoltaics leads the field, providing about 4 million jobs today. Even though sales of off-grid systems declined through COVID-19 in 2020, they will be critical to powering agriculture, food processing and healthcare. Wind energy now employs 1.25 million people, with increasing numbers employed in operations and maintenance and in the offshore wind energy sector.
The 2021 Annual Report is a special edition in that it is based on a collaboration with the International Labour Organisation (ILO). It contains not only the findings on the employment situation in 2020, but also the main results of IRENA's work on modelling the impact on employment of the Agency's energy transition scenarios up to 2050.
This special issue discusses how job creation depends on countries' ability to build and strengthen domestic supply chains, and highlights the growing need for skills in all regions of the world to create a capable renewable energy workforce. The report concludes with the necessary policy framework that brings together labour market incentives, industrial policies and further social protection needs.