Clean energy hiring drives energy jobs above pre-pandemic levels, IEA says

Women are significantly under-represented in the energy sector, which accounts for about 2 per cent of the global workforce

Maintenance engineers check installations at a new solar park outside the northern Greek city of Kozani.  A new report says that clean energy now provides more employment than the fossil fuel industry. AP
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Increased hiring in the clean energy segment and efforts to strengthen supply chains have driven global employment in the energy industry to exceed pre-pandemic levels, according to the International Energy Agency.

Clean energy accounts for more than half of the 65 million energy sector jobs, as a result of the substantial growth of new projects coming online, the Paris-based agency said in a report on Thursday. Most regions exceeded this level, except for Russia and the Middle East.

Clean energy jobs are overtaking those in the fossil fuel industry, with increased hiring in emissions-reducing technologies such as the manufacture of electronic vehicles, their components and batteries, the Paris-based agency said in its World Energy Employment report on Thursday.

“Countries around the world are responding to the current crisis by seeking to accelerate the growth of homegrown clean energy industries. The regions that make this move will see huge growth in jobs,” said Fatih Birol, director general of the IEA.

“Seizing this opportunity requires skilled workers. Governments, companies, labour representatives and educators must come together to develop the programmes and accreditations needed to cultivate this workforce and ensure the jobs created are quality jobs that can attract a diverse workforce.”

The rapid shift in energy employment comes as countries and companies accelerate efforts to decarbonise and meet net zero emissions pledges amid pressure to address climate change challenges.

Energy employment, driven by more hiring in clean energy projects, is recovering strongly from the Covid-19 pandemic that spurred lay-offs across regions and especially in oil and gas supply, the IEA said.

Energy jobs are exceeding pre-pandemic levels currently due to resilient growth in clean energy, while employment in the fossil fuel industry is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels only this year, the agency said.

However, the oil and gas sector is also experiencing an upswing in employment, with new projects under development, mainly in new liquefied natural gas infrastructure, it said.

In terms of regions, more than half of energy employment is in Asia Pacific, the report showed. Rapid energy infrastructure expansion in Asia Pacific is outpacing other regions, and lower-cost labour is enabling the emergence of significant clean energy manufacturing centres that supply projects worldwide, notably for solar, electric and hybrid vehicles, and batteries.

China alone accounts for almost 30 per cent of the global energy workforce.

Employment in clean energy is set to rise under various IEA scenarios. Job growth in clean energy could more than offset a decline in traditional fossil fuel supply sectors under all scenarios.

The IEA estimates that an additional 13 million workers will be employed in clean energy and related sectors by 2030 in a scenario where all announced climate pledges were met in time and in full.

Under the IEA’s Net Zero Emissions by 2050 scenario, it estimates that 14 million new clean energy jobs are created by 2030, while another 16 million workers shift to new roles related to clean energy. About 60 per cent of these new jobs require some degree of post-secondary training.

The current global energy crisis will prompt governments and the industry to rethink their global supply chain exposures, particularly the reliance on Russian oil, which may "portend another few years of larger-than-normal shifts in energy employment", the IEA said.

The percentage of women in the male-dominated energy workforce is still consistently low when compared with economy-wide averages, with less than 15 per cent in senior management positions, the IEA said.

The energy sector, which as a whole accounts for about 2 per cent of the global workforce, needs to attract high-skilled labour and improve diversity.

Energy sector wages typically show a premium over economy-wide average wages, although this premium ranges substantially, from 10 per cent to 50 per cent across advanced economies alone, the IEA said.

Established industries such as nuclear, oil and gas typically offer the highest wages.

Newer segments, such as solar, do not have the same labour protections and union representation as established fossil fuel industries, especially in emerging market and developing economies, it said.

Updated: September 08, 2022, 9:17 AM