Renewables are one of the great promises of employment on a global scale. With the energy transition already launched in the West and in part of the emerging bloc, with China at the helm, clean energy added 4.7 million workers last year, according to data made public this Wednesday by the International Energy Agency ( IEA, the OECD arm for energy issues). There are already 35 million people who work directly or indirectly for this rapidly growing sector.
The promise, however, also carries risks: the lack of trained workers is one of the biggest bottlenecks facing this budding revolution. The Paris-based organization notes how companies in the sector face problems in hiring all the technical personnel they need and calls for increasing efforts to train specialists.
“The unprecedented acceleration in the clean energy transition is creating millions of new opportunities around the world, but they are not being filled at the required speed,” notes IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol in the report. “Governments, businesses and educational institutions need to put in place programs to provide the skills the energy sector needs to keep pace with high demand.”
According to an IEA survey of 160 large companies, the segment in which there are the most difficulties in finding profiles is equipment installation and repair. There is also a shortage of higher graduates, a segment that – according to figures from the International Labor Organization (ILO) – accounts for 36% of energy jobs, compared to 27% for the economy as a whole.
More green employees than fossils
Two years ago, the sectors associated with the energy transition surpassed in volume that of all fossil industries combined. And the gap—three million: 35 versus 32—will not stop growing in the coming years, both due to the rise of these new niches and the decline of oil, gas and coal—a condition sine qua non to win the battle against climate change. Since 2019, the year immediately before the pandemic, renewables have grown by 3.4 million jobs while fossil fuels have lost 1.3 million.
More than half of the job growth in recent years rests on five sectors: photovoltaic, wind, electric vehicles, batteries, heat pumps and critical mineral extraction. These five sectors already account for nine million jobs worldwide. Of them, the vast majority (four million) are linked to solar energy, which will account for most of the new installed power in the coming years.
The geographical distribution clearly leans towards the East. China is, by far, the country in which employment in renewables is growing the most: it now accounts for almost a third of the total after adding two million jobs in three years. In the Asian giant, however, the fossil sector has also continued to add workers: 600,000 more in that period.
Reconversion from the fossil sector
Where fishing These profiles required to accelerate the take-off of green energies? The IEA is clear: as paradoxical as it may sound, the fossil sector is the first candidate to provide employees to its new competitors. According to the calculations of the think tankone in two oil, gas and coal employees has the skills required to make the leap with just a few short training courses.
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