Jobs are of great importance in any economy. Employment opportunities are a key consideration in planning for a low-carbon economy. Many governments have prioritised renewable energy development, firstly to reduce emissions and meet international climate goals, but also in pursuit of broader socio-economic benefits. As the energy transition accelerates, job gains and losses can be expected as economic structures evolve. Jobs represent a tangible benefit that gives people a stake in this transformation, and therefore promises to raise its political acceptance.
Renewable energy employment worldwide has continued to grow since IRENA initiated its annual review; the first edition of the Review estimated 7.3 million jobs in 2012. The ninth edition of IRENA’s series, Renewable energy and jobs: Annual review 2022, produced in collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO), estimates at least 12.7 million jobs in renewable energy employment globally.
Annual reviews of employment in renewables
The various editions of this report series discuss employment trends by renewable energy technology and by country, and include highlights of important topics such as decentralised solutions or gender. The series also touches upon how employment generation rides on countries’ abilities to build and strengthen domestic supply chains, and some have successfully leveraged local capabilities to that end, with the help of industrial policy measures, labour market policies, and other efforts. The 2022 edition also spotlights issues of job quality and labour standards in the mining and processing of raw materials inputs (upstream) and in the handling of materials once renewable energy generating facilities are decommissioned (downstream).
Key global findings:
- 12.7 million: Worldwide employment in renewable energy in 2021, up from 12 million in 2020. Close to two-thirds of all jobs are in Asia, and China alone accounts for 42% of the global total. It is followed by the European Union and Brazil with 10% each, and the United States and India with 7% each.
- 4.3 million: Jobs in solar photovoltaic (PV) in 2021, the fastest-growing sector, accounting for more than a third of the total renewable energy workforce.
- 1.3 million: Jobs in wind power in 2021. Countries are building the industrial base and infrastructure needed to support growing offshore installations.
- 2.4 million: Direct jobs in hydropower in 2021. Two-thirds of these jobs were in manufacturing, 30% related to construction and installation and about 6% to operation and maintenance.
- 3.4 million: Jobs in bioenergy in 2021. Biofuels account for 2.4 million, with the vast majority in feedstock operations. Biodiesel output and employment are rising while ethanol is ebbing.
- Southeast Asian countries are becoming major solar PV manufacturing hubs and are biofuels producers. China is the pre-eminent manufacturer and installer of solar PV panels and is creating a growing number of jobs in offshore wind. India added more than 10 GW of solar PV, with many installation jobs, but remains heavily dependent on imported panels.
- Europe now accounts for about 40 per cent of the world’s wind manufacturing output and is the most important exporter of wind power equipment; it is trying to reconstitute its solar PV manufacturing industry.
- 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 in the Western Hemisphere. Brazil remains the leading employer in biofuels but is also adding many jobs in wind and solar PV installations. The USA is beginning to build a domestic industrial base for the budding offshore wind sector.
The lingering impact of the COVID-19 crisis has put a spotlight on the viability of far-flung supply chains. Trade disputes and geopolitical rivalries are reinforcing interest in localisation of supply chains, both to enhance resilience in the face of external shocks and to boost domestic value creation and jobs. Numerous countries are adopting a mix of trade measures and industrial policy strategies to build and expand their supply chains. Other key policy objectives include ensuring jobs are decent, and that equal employment opportunities exist for women, youth and minorities.
The continued expansion of decent renewable energy jobs requires a comprehensive approach comprising policies on the deployment, integration and enablement of renewables, as well as industrial policies, education and skills training, labour market measures, diversity and inclusion strategies, and regional revitalisation and social protection measures.
The complete series can be accessed here.
Explore complete seriesmore
Renewable Energy and Jobs - Annual Review 2021Interactive version
This Special Edition of the report on Labour and Policy Perspectives, in collaboration with the ILO, presents the status of employment in 2020 and discusses the policy framework required for a just transition.Energy & jobs, Socio-economic impact, Macro-economic benefits, Socio-economic impact English
Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2020Interactive version
IRENA's annual jobs review confirms long-term growth trend; strong policy action essential to ensure continued employment expansion in the COVID-19 era.Energy & jobs, Socio-economic impact, Macro-economic benefits, Socio-economic impact English, Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese
Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2017View
This report presents the status of renewable energy employment, both by technology and in selected countries, over the past year. In this fourth edition, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) finds that renewable energy employed 9.8 million people around the world in 2016 – a 1.1% increase over 2015.Energy & jobs, Socio-economic impact English
Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2016View
Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review presents the status of renewable energy employment, both by technology and in selected countries, over the past year. In this third edition, IRENA estimates that renewable energy employed 8.1 million people around the world in 2015 (excluding large hydropower). This is a 5% increase from the number reported the previous year. In addition, IRENA conducted a second global estimate of large hydropower employment, showing approximately 1.3 million direct jobs in the sector.Energy & jobs, Socio-economic impact English
Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2015View
Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review presents the status of renewable energy employment, both by technology and in selected countries, over the past year. In this second edition, IRENA estimates that renewable energy employed 7.7 million people, directly or indirectly, around the world in 2014 (excluding large hydropower).Energy & jobs, Socio-economic impact English
Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2014View
In 2013, approximately 6.5 million people were employed in the renewable energy industry worldwide, according to this update on employment in the sector from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2014 underlines the important role that renewables play in employment creation and growth in the global economy.Energy & jobs, Socio-economic impact English
Renewable Energy and Jobs (2013)View
Over 5.7 million people are employed directly or indirectly in renewable energy – a figure that could triple by 2030 with the scale-up needed to ensure global energy sustainability. As policy makers look beyond energy security and environmental aspects, the comprehensive Renewable Energy and Jobs report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) examines wider socio-economic benefits, and specifically job creation.Energy & jobs, Socio-economic impact English