x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Renewable energy employs 6.5m worldwide, Abu Dhabi report shows

Renewable energy is a boom industry, with the number of employees rising significantly across the world, a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) has concluded.

Shams, in Al Gharbia, is the Middle East’s largest renewable-energy project. Silvia Razgova / The National
Shams, in Al Gharbia, is the Middle East’s largest renewable-energy project. Silvia Razgova / The National

ABU DHABI // Renewable energy is providing more and more jobs across the globe, a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) has concluded.

The Abu Dhabi-based organisation has calculated that the number of people working in the industry has risen from 5.7 million in 2012 to 6.5 million this year.

The report, Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2014, says that China, Brazil, the United States, India, Germany, Spain and Bangladesh are the countries with the biggest job creation in renewables. Solar photovoltaic (PV) energy is the industry’s biggest employer, followed by liquid biofuels, wind power, and companies who use biomass and solar heating or cooling technologies.

“With 6.5 million people directly or indirectly employed in renewable energy, the sector is proving that it is no longer a niche, it has become a significant employer worldwide,” said Adnan Amin, director general of Irena. “The insights into shifts along segments of the value-chain revealed in the report are crucial to developing policy that strengthens job growth in this important sector of the economy.”

China is the country with the largest number of renewable-energy jobs – larger than the figures for the United States and the European Union put together. One factor is the growth of solar PV technologies in the country, with the number of installations increasing five-fold from 2011 to 2013, Irena estimates.

“Surging demand for solar PV in China and Japan has increased employment in the installation sector and eased some PV module oversupply concerns,” said Rabia Ferroukhi, head of the knowledge, policy and finance division at Irena and lead author of the report. “Consequently some Chinese manufacturers are now adding capacity.”

China is also experiencing growth in its wind-energy industry.

The UAE is also mentioned in the report, specifically Abu Dhabi’s 100-megawatt concentrated solar power plant in the Western Region, which opened in March last year. Concentrated solar power is one area with potential for job creation in the region, in fields such as construction and fabrication of metal structures, mirrors and glass for the plants as well as related engineering tasks.

Vahid Fotuhi, president and founder of the Middle East Solar Industry Association, said the report shows how solar energy could help to create more jobs in the UAE, provided the right policies are put in place.

“As an organisation, we feel very strongly about not only the direct benefits of solar, but also the complementary benefits, which are social and economic,” he said.

Mr Fotuhi quoted a study carried out last year by the European Photovoltaic Industry Association, which states that solar energy creates more jobs per unit of power when compared with traditional fossil fuel-based energy.

“With solar and wind, you have to create different components that extract the energy,” he said, explaining that solar PV creates on average 15 jobs per megawatt of power, as opposed to less than half of that figure for fossil fuels.

Currently, there are about 50 solar companies in the UAE, almost all of which are based in Dubai, he said. The emirate is working on a policy for solar rooftop applications and is moving ahead with its project to build a 100-megawatt solar PV plant near the city.

Abu Dhabi has yet to announce a strategy for renewable energy.

“What is missing now is a policy framework with a clear road map for future expansion and future contracts,” he said.

vtodorova@thenational.ae