Clean energy transition to create 122m energy jobs by 2050, Irena says

Hastening energy transition is expected to grow the world’s economy by 2.4% over the next decade

Emissions from the Jeffrey Energy Center coal-fired power plant are silhouetted against the setting sun in Kansas, US. Irena also highlighted 'innovative solutions' that are reshaping the global energy system allowing for rapid decarbonisation. AP Photo
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Efforts to limit global warming to 1.5° Celsius by 2050 could create about 122 million energy-related jobs, more than double the current 58 million in the sector, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Renewable energy alone will account for more than a third of all energy jobs, employing 43 million people globally.

A renewable-powered energy transition is the only scenario to provide a "fighting chance" for the world to limit global warming to 1.5° C by 2050, the Abu Dhabi-based agency said in a new report, 'World Energy Transitions Outlook: 1.5° C Pathway'.

"Today, even some of the most conservative energy players have realised it as the only realistic option for a climate-safe world," it added.

"Such a profound and pervasive shift of views is rooted in undeniable evidence, not only of the world’s grave problems but also of trends in technology, policy, and markets that have been reshaping the energy sector for over a decade," the report said.

The Paris Agreement signed in 2015 mandates countries to cap the rise in global temperatures to 1.5° C or 2° C above pre-industrial levels.

Countries around the world have been looking to curb emissions levels after the movement restrictions imposed to curb Covid-19 led to a dramatic decline in greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.

The falling cost of renewables, particularly wind and solar in recent years, also provides a solid business case for clean energy to replace fossil fuels as the main sources of power generation, said Francesco La Camera, Irena's director general.

"The progress in the power sector is spilling over to end uses, allowing a reimagining of possibilities with the abundance of renewable options at hand," he said.

A record level of renewables-based power generation capacity was added to the global grid last year.

Irena estimates around 260 gigawatts of clean power capacity was added over the past year, which was four times the volume installed from other sources.

"This a promising trajectory for rapid decarbonisation of the power sector," the agency said.

Irena also highlighted "innovative solutions" that are reshaping the global energy system, allowing for rapid decarbonisation.

"Significant progress has been made in electric mobility, battery storage, digital technologies and artificial intelligence, among others. These shifts are also drawing greater attention to the need for sustainable exploitation and management of rare earths and other minerals, and investment in the circular economy," the report added.

The falling cost of renewable energy generation could drive down the cost of hydrogen, a fuel that is being increasingly favoured to decarbonise electric systems, Irena said in a report last week.

Record low tariffs for solar power projects among oil-exporting states of the Middle East could allow for the development of low-cost green hydrogen, which is produced entirely from renewables.

Updated: June 30, 2021, 4:56 PM