A new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the International Labour Organization estimates that about 12 million people were employed in the renewable energy sector, directly and indirectly, in 2020. This reflects considerable growth in employment worldwide in this sector, as the initial annual report issued estimated 7.3 million in 2012.

COVID-19 caused delays and supply chain disruptions, with impacts on jobs varying by country. Solar and wind jobs continued to lead global employment growth in the sector, accounting for 4 million and 1.25 million jobs, respectively. Employment in liquid biofuels declined, however, as demand for transport fuels fell. While off-grid solar lighting sales also suffered, companies were able to limit job losses.

China accounted for 39% of renewable energy jobs worldwide in 2020, followed by Brazil, India, the U.S. and European Union member states.

[See also: The renewable energy-employment nexus in 2050]

A 1.5° C compatible global pathway scenario developed by IRENA projects that the renewable energy sector could account for 38 million jobs by 2030 and 43 million by 2050, double the number under current policies and pledges. Jobs in the energy sector as a whole will grow to 122 million in 2050 under the 1.5° C pathway, compared with 114 million under current policies. Solar is expected to continue current expansion trends and make up the largest share of renewable energy jobs in 2050, with 19.9 million jobs, followed by bioenergy (13.7 million), wind (5.5 million) and hydropower (3.7 million).

To contact the author of this article, email shimmelstein@globalspec.com