The Outline of Employment in Renewables
Employment in renewable energy was estimated to be at 12 million in 2020 globally, an increase from 11.5 million in 2019 . It demonstrates a 70% increase compared to the 7.1 million which was reported in the first annual assessment in 2012 by IRENA . Around four million or a third of the total renewable energy workforce have been employed in the solar photovoltaic industry. Followed by the bioenergy sector including liquid biofuels, solid biomass, and biogas which has grabbed more than three million and a half. After that hydropower, wind energy, and solar heating and cooling have employed the rest of them. Globally, women account for one-third of the renewables workforce, although their participation varies widely by country and industry. The pandemic has had a negative impact on gender equity in the renewable energy workforce .
In late 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that solar photovoltaic installers and wind turbine service technicians would be among the top three fastest-growing occupations over the coming decade .
According to IRENA’s analysis, the energy transition aligned with the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global average temperature rise to 1.5°C will have a positive impact on job opportunities globally. Under a 1.5°C scenario, 122 million jobs could be created in the energy sector by 2050, 43 million of which would be in renewables. This represents a 93% increase from the Planned Energy Scenario (PES). PES refers to current energy plans, including each country’s Nationally Determined Contributions.
Then, let us dive deep into the renewable energy workforce of two out of five renewable sectors that are mentioned above and compare what job titles will become mainstreams in two leading renewable energy sectors, i.e. solar and wind.
The Status of Job Opportunities in Solar
In 2020, solar PV added 127 GW of new capacity worldwide [3,4]. More than 60%, almost 78 GW, was added in Asia, principally in five countries (China, Viet Nam, India, the Republic of Korea and Japan); Europe installed 20.8 GW, the United States another 15 GW, Australia 4.4 GW and Brazil 3.3 GW . Among all countries, Asian nations accounted for 79.4% of the solar PV jobs worldwide, reflecting the region’s strong manufacturing and installation capabilities . As a good example of it, In 2019, the leading ten PV module manufacturers supplied surprisingly 83% of global polysilicon and 95% of wafers . Fraunhofer ISE has suggested that installation of PV systems can create about 3 500 full-time jobs per gigawatt of capacity and PV module manufacturing, from wafers to modules, could create up to 7 500 jobs in Europe .
Manufacturing and procurement in the solar PV sector after operation and maintenance (O&M) will demand more staff than installation and grid connection,transportation, or decommissioning.
The Status of Job Opportunities in Wind
By the end of 2020 the wind energy sector saw a strong expansion . Capacity additions almost doubled to 111 GW, from 58 GW added in 2019. China added by far the most (72 GW), followed by the United States (14 GW) . Job creation in the wind energy sector depends to some extent on countries’ ability to establish a strong local supply chain, including through investment in manufacturing, grids, and, for oshore projects, port infrastructure and specialized vessels . Of the almost 800 factories worldwide that produce wind-turbine components, 45% are in China and 31% in Europe, 7% in India, 5% in Brazil and 4.5% in the United States, Canada and Mexico .
In 2019, the top ten turbine manufacturers had an 84% global market share, up from 74% five years earlier. Just 15 manufacturers supply half of global demand for blades; the total number of blade producers has fallen by a third since 2016, as smaller suppliers have been squeezed on cost, research and development spending and lack of a global presence . In contrast to the solar PV sector, the manufacturing and procurement part in the wind energy sector will be lower attractive for job seekers, 17% of the total needed human resource is employed in this part. Since the installation and grid connection will become more popular in this sector by 2050 .
Comparing Employment that needs for 50 MW Onshore Solar and Wind
Human resources which are needed for onshore solar and wind farms can be divided into six segments including project planning, manufacturing and procurement, transport, installation and grid connection, operation and maintenance, and decommissioning. In both 50 MW onshore solar and wind power plants, the operation and maintenance will need the most staff by 2050. While the project planning and transport segments of these power plants will create the lowest job opportunities.
In addition, manufacturing and procurement in solar will create more job vacancies than in wind. However, the intensive job creation in the installation and grid connection in wind will mitigate this retardation.
Did you know?
 IRENA and ILO (2021), Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2021, International Renewable Energy Agency, International Labour Organization, Abu Dhabi, Geneva.
 Border States Supply Chain Solution, “How Renewable Energy is Shaping the Job Outlook for Electric Utilities and Contractors”.
 IRENA (2021), Renewable capacity statistics 2021 International Renewable Energy Agency
(IRENA), Abu Dhabi.
 SolarEdition, “The 2020 Solar Growth Estimation, Continuous Growth, and Concerns…”.
 Fraunhofer ISE (2020), “Sustainable PV manufacturing in Europe”,released 22 July.
 Wind Europe (2020), “Wind energy and economic recovery in Europe”.