A world powered by renewable energy would rely on millions more new jobs than those provided by conventional power generation technologies, according to a new study.
The solar industry will provide 22 million jobs by 2050, according to the Job creation during the global energy transition towards 100% renewable power system by 2050 study published in Technological Forecasting and Social Change and on the ScienceDirect website.
According to the key findings of the study, produced by a group including Christian Breyer, professor of solar economy at Finland’s Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT), the global power sector employment will rise to 35 million positions in 2050, up from 21 million in 2015, with renewables supplying 80% of future opportunities. The study considers jobs in a range of sectors including manufacturing, construction and installation, operation and maintenance, fuel supply, decommissioning and transmission, as well as factoring in potential job losses.
The growth of the renewables job market was calculated using the LUT Energy System Transition modelling tool which uses hourly calculations for the years encompassed by the study. “For each period, the model defines a cost-optimal energy system structure and operation mode for the given set of constraints, that are: power demand; available generation and storage technologies; financial and technical assumptions; and limits on installed capacity for all applied technologies,” the researchers explained.
With energy demand expected to grow from 23.1 PWh in 2015 to around 48.8 PWh in 2050, the proportion of power consumers owning a PV array is set to grow from 3% to 20% during that period.
The job figures relate to a scenario in which global installed clean energy generation capacity rises from 14 TW in 2030 to more than 28 TW in 2050, to supply 99.65% of power generation, mid century.
“Renewable power generation technologies, mainly solar PV and wind energy, are expected to contribute nearly 87% to the total electricity generation by 2050,” the report notes. The total output of energy storage technologies is expected to cover around 31% of electric demand in 2050.
The overall energy sector is expected to support 35 million jobs in 2030, up from 21 million in 2015. The number of people employed by the electricity sector will dip to 30 million after 2030 before recovering to 35 million by 2050. “This is mainly due to large [generation] capacities being replaced and reinvested in, as they would reach end of their lifetimes, with decommissioning contributing around 2% of total jobs by 2050,” the research states.
The PV sector is expected to account for 22 million jobs by 2050, far more than the anticipated 1.5 million positions supported by wind power. Energy storage will support more than 4.5 million workers by mid century, according to the report. “In the case of wind energy, around 7.3 million jobs are created in the period from 2020 to 2030,” stated the study. “Beyond that, as solar PV becomes more cost effective they drive [the] majority of the installations until 2050 and jobs in the wind sector are stabilized.”
The study's findings will offer little solace to the workers affected by recent insolvency proceedings, with Italian renewables developer Building Energy Spa last week announcing 28 of its 37 Italian employees would be laid off – without revealing why – three European thin-film solar businesses have recently started insolvency proceedings.
Last week, German business Calyxo TS Solar GmbH started proceedings for the second time, causing anxiety for its 130 employees, and nine staff in Vienna are thought to be potentially affected by the decision of Austrian manufacturer Crystalsol GmbH to open insolvency proceedings related to €6.7 million of liabilities. A debt restructuring proposal will go to the vote at Crystalsol on April 1.
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