Women Occupy One-Third of Workforce in the Global Renewable Energy Sector

Employment in the segment registered a 4.5% growth against 2018


India created 719,000 jobs in the renewable energy sector until 2017-18, while globally, this sector employed 11.5 million people. A third of these were women, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has estimated in its latest report.

In its seventh edition of ‘Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review,’ IRENA said that the segment continued to bring socio-economic benefits by creating numerous jobs worldwide.

Mercom has previously written about how solar energy projects help provide rural economies with new sources of revenue, employment opportunities, product and policy innovation, capacity building, and, most importantly, affordable energy.

Asia accounted for 63% of total jobs in renewables globally, one-third of which were in the solar power generation segment.

The segment registered a 4.5% growth against 2018. Most jobs in the sector were created in a small number of countries. Still, employment benefits are showing up more widely, primarily through the deployment of solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies.

“Although precise estimates remain scarce, off-grid decentralized renewables are creating a growing number of jobs,” IRENA said in the study.

‘…while propelling employment in productive uses ranging from agro-processing and healthcare to communications and commerce in local communities,” it said.

In 2019, 87% of global PV employment was concentrated in the ten countries in deployment and equipment production globally.

Estimated Direct and Indirect Jobs by Industry, 2017-18

Several factors, including national deployment and industrial policies, shaped how and where jobs were created. Changes in geographical supply chain footprint, trade patterns, and industry consolidation also contributed to the trend.

Employment remained concentrated in a handful of countries, with China, Brazil, the United States, India, and members of the European Union in the lead. Asian countries’ share was 60% of the global total. Previously, Mercom reported that in 2019, jobs in the solar sector rose across the United States after two straight years of decline. The Solar Foundation said in a report that the solar industry in the country added nearly 250,000 workers in 2019 to its employment force, up about 2.3% from the previous year.

Driven by output growth of 2% for ethanol and 13% for biodiesel, biofuel jobs worldwide expanded to 2.5 million. Production growth was robust in Brazil, Colombia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand, all of which have labor-intensive supply chains. In contrast, output in the United States and the European Union fell.

Nonetheless, the increasingly diverse geographic footprint of energy generation capacities and, to a lesser degree, assembly and manufacturing plants have created jobs in a rising number in some countries.

Rising off-grid solar sales also translated into a growing number of jobs in the context of expanding energy access and spurring economic activity in previously isolated communities.

Rising output pushed biofuel jobs up 6% to 2.1 million. Brazil, Colombia, and Southeast Asia are characterized by labor-intensive supply chains. In contrast, operations in the United States and the European Union are far more mechanized.

Employment in wind power supports 1.2 million people. Onshore projects predominate, but the offshore segment gained traction. It built on expertise and infrastructure in the offshore oil and gas sector.

Hydropower, with the largest installed capacity among renewables, is now expanding slowly. The sector employs 2.1 million people directly, three quarters of whom are in operations and maintenance.

Global RE Employment by Technology, 2012-2018

Employment opportunities are a vital consideration in planning for low-carbon economic growth. Many governments have prioritized renewable energy development to reduce emissions, meet international climate goals, and pursue broader socio-economic benefits.