IEA: Surge in Clean Energy Employment Encounters Impending Skills Shortage
In 2022, a remarkable surge in clean energy employment was recorded, with a staggering 4.7 million more individuals finding work in the sector compared to 2019, according to the latest data released by the influential International Energy Agency (IEA). This upward trajectory in the energy job market is impressive, reflecting a global demand surge for solar, wind, and other clean energy technologies.
This morning's report from the IEA unveils a significant revelation - a whopping total of over 67 million people were gainfully employed in the energy sector during 2022, marking a substantial increase of 3.4 million since 2019. Clean energy sectors played an instrumental role in this job market boom, witnessing a robust growth of 4.7 million workers since 2019, reaching an impressive tally of over 35 million individuals dedicated to driving sustainable energy solutions.
In stark contrast, the fossil fuel industry, still recovering from pandemic-induced layoffs, displayed a slower job market rebound, with a current employment level of 32 million roles. Consequently, 1.3 million fewer positions were recorded in the coal, oil, and gas sectors in 2022 compared to their 2019 figures.
Delving deeper into the sectors responsible for this employment upswing, solar photovoltaics (PV), wind energy, electric vehicles (EVs) and batteries, heat pumps, and critical minerals emerged as the unsung heroes, collectively contributing to more than half of the energy sector's employment growth between 2019 and 2022. Together, these five sectors employ approximately nine million individuals, with solar PV alone accounting for nearly half of that workforce, representing a commendable four million employees.
Notably, this clean energy employment phenomenon transcended geographical boundaries, spreading its influence globally. However, the most substantial growth was witnessed in China, a nation boasting the world's largest energy workforce. Furthermore, within the quintet of clean energy 'growth' sectors, batteries and EVs stood out with the most rapid employment growth, creating over one million jobs since 2019.
From a forward-looking perspective, the IEA, in its updated Net Zero Roadmap published in September, prophesied the creation of 30 million fresh clean energy jobs by 2030. On the flip side, an estimated 13 million jobs are expected to be lost in fossil fuel-related industries by the same deadline.
Nevertheless, amidst these promising developments, the IEA also sounded a cautionary note, highlighting a looming skills shortage that could impede the growth of clean energy and its affiliated sectors. Remarkably, construction-related occupations face the brunt of this skills deficit, which could constrain the labor pool available for installing clean energy technologies and retrofitting buildings.
IEA executive director Fatih Birol urged governments to work with businesses to upskill and reskill workers for the energy transition.
"The unprecedented acceleration that we have seen in clean energy transitions is creating millions of new job opportunities all over the world - but these are not being filled quickly enough," he said. "Governments, industry, and educational institutions need to put in place programs to deliver the expertise needed in the energy sector to keep pace with growing demand, particularly to manufacture and build the clean energy projects necessary to meet our energy and climate goals."
Furthermore, the IEA underscored the need for specialized training and capacity-building efforts to narrow the skills gap. It's important to note that the energy sector demands a workforce with technical skills, accounting for approximately 36 percent of high-skilled occupations, compared to the economy-wide average of 27 percent.
In addressing this multifaceted challenge, the IEA advocated for retraining workers from fossil fuel industries and recruiting talent from other sectors to bolster the energy workforce, ensuring a sustainable and thriving future for clean energy employment.