Renewables create jobs

The study "Renewable Energy and Jobs" draws an interesting map of green employment.

According to the annual report Renewable Energy and Jobs by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), in this last year, the number of people employed worldwide in the sector of renewable energy rose by 700,000, taking the total to 11 million. This figure is destined to keep growing, given the extraordinary international development of the sector, which still had only 7.28 million workers in 2012.

In the last few years, more and more countries have produced, marketed and installed technologies for renewable energy. An interesting element that emerges from the report is precisely how the diversification of the renewable supply chain is changing the geographical footprint of the sector. If the theme of environmental sustainability took off first in the more industrialised countries, today emerging economies are employing the largest number of individuals in the sector.

Markets which have always been leaders, such as China, the United States and the European Union, are passing the torch to other countries of the East and of South-east Asia (India, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam), which emerged from the analysis as top exporters of photovoltaic solar panels. Asia in general, thanks to this redistribution, is establishing itself as the largest provider of renewable employment at the global level, with 60% of workers.

Photovoltaics is the renewable technology creating most jobs (Pexels.com/Pixabay)

In 2018, solar photovoltaics remained the main “employer” among technologies for renewable energy, accounting for a third of the workflow of the sector. In this field alone, Asia has hosted more than 3 million jobs, almost nine tenths of the global total. The countries of Latin America have also seen growth, in line with the increase in regional demand for photovoltaics.

While China beat Europe as regards offshore wind power investments in 2018, the markets of the United States and North Africa have begun to convert their experience in oil and gas into offshore wind power activities. In addition, off-grid renewable energy—together with the expansion of access to electricity—has contributed to job creation all over Africa and Asia.

This growth is due, above all, to the fact that many governments have prioritised the development of renewable energy to reduce emissions and achieve international climate targets, but also to pursue wider socio-economic benefits. According to IRENA, following this line would create the ideal conditions for strengthening the workforce in the sector in the coming years, and Eurofound, the European Foundation for improvement of living and working conditions, is of the same opinion.

According to its analysis "Employment implications of the Paris Climate Agreement", based on the E3ME macroeconomic model developed by Cambridge Econometrics, if it financed the energy transition in line with the objective of Paris 2015 (to limit the increase in average temperatures to less than 2 degrees centigrade by the end of the century, compared to the pre-industrial age) the European Union could increase gross domestic product and employment respectively by 1.1% and 0.5% by 2030.

Eleven million workers are employed worldwide thanks to renewable energy (Pexels.com/Pavel Chernonogo)

"The whole chain that goes from construction to procurement, up to distribution is being developed", commented Francesco La Camera, Director-General of IRENA. "This is because, as well as the environmental aspects, the development of green energy has effects also on costs and on society". Essentially, the study estimated how and how much the European production system would change if all countries were involved in the creation of an economy with low environmental impact, reducing carbon dioxide emissions in all sectors (transport, building, electricity generation, etc.), as required by the international agreements on climate, and investing massively in renewable sources.

Also, in Italy, the use of renewable energy has increased more and more over the last few years, such that, already in 2015, it reached the target of 17% set for 2020. A trend encouraged, above all, by the considerable investments aimed to improve the energy efficiency of buildings, as well as to increase their environmental sustainability. In these years, interest has also grown in small domestic systems powered by photovoltaics, which account for 51% of total Italian production of the latter.

As regards instead wind power, it corresponds to only 18% of total production from renewable sources and, for this reason, among others, in Italy’s Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan (INECP), direct reference is made also to optimisation of this energy source. By 2030, the use of coal must also be eliminated and the energy efficiency of the residential and transport sector must be increased. This objective is in line with the forecasts of IRENA, which expects all renewable sources to be more competitive than fossil sources already by the end of next year.