Focus on employment in the EU renewable energy sector

Energy production and use accounts for more than 75% of EU greenhouse gas emissions. Decarbonising the energy system is therefore key to achieving the EU’s long-term goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2050.

Energy from renewable sources is essential to “clean up” the EU’s energy system. At the same time, an increased share of renewables in the energy mix will also benefit citizens by creating new employment opportunities in various sectors, guiding dialogues between communities and presenting opportunities for more equal and inclusive standards. in the energy sector.

A growing market

The EU’s renewable energy target for 2020 was to achieve a share of renewable energy of at least 20% in the EU’s overall energy mix. In 2018, the new target for 2030 was set at 32%. With the European Green Deal, the Commission has aimed even higher and suggested in July 2021 to increase the renewable energy target to 40% for all EU countries. This proposal is currently being drawn up by the European Parliament and the Council.

Currently, most jobs in the EU energy sector are related to conventional energy technologies such as oil, gas, coal and nuclear. But clean energy technologies are becoming a dynamic area for investment and employment, creating new jobs also in related sectors, such as construction and manufacturing.

Some sectors and regions in the EU will need time to convert to new renewable energy sources and try, if possible, to transfer skills. This is already the case in the coal regions of the EU. The European Commission has put in place initiatives to help and support a just transition for coal regions, both in the EU and in the Western Balkans and Ukraine, on their way to decarbonisation.

Due to the EU’s long-term goal of climate neutrality and its recent promise to reduce its dependence on imported fuels, the EU’s renewable energy sector is set to grow, and much faster than expected. initially. Already in 2020, the turnover of the renewable energy industry in the EU-27 countries amounted to around 163 billion euros, representing a gross growth of around 13.7 billion euros. euros compared to 2019 (+9.2%).

Among renewable energy sources, solar PV, wind and bioenergy are already mature industries and major employers both globally and in the EU. In 2020, 24% of total EU employment in the renewable energy sector was related to heat pumps (318,000 jobs), followed by 22% in biofuels (238,000 jobs) and 21% in electricity. energy (280,400 jobs), and about 1.3 million people were directly or indirectly employed in the sector. This represented a gross increase of 65,000 jobs (5.2%) from 2019 to 2020. The top 4 countries in terms of employment were Germany (242,100 jobs, 18% of all EU renewable jobs) , France (164,400 jobs, 13%), Spain (140,500 jobs, 11%) and Italy (99,900 jobs, 8%).

What are the professions of renewable energies?

In the coming years, more people will enter employment sectors related to renewable energy technologies, but what will those jobs look like? In order to highlight the production of renewable energy and its economic, societal and industrial benefits, the Commission’s Directorate-General for Energy is launching a series of video testimonials of people sharing their experiences of working in different installations of renewable energy across the EU.

The series called “People with energy” was launched in May 2022 with a video interview of Mairead Hogan, who works as a bioengineer on a wind farm in Ireland.

With the participation of female workers, this series helps to show the importance of an egalitarian and inclusive dimension for the success of the energy transition. In 2019, male workers made up 80% of the total workforce in the EU energy sector. To reduce the gender gap and contribute to the diversification of the workforce in this sector, the Commission created in October 2021 the Equality for the Energy Platform, which brings together energy stakeholders committed to equality and inclusion.

By the end of June, the next video featuring an electrician working on a solar farm in Poland. He will be followed by other examples including the mayor of a Swedish town, a technician at a hydroelectric power station in Austria, an Italian farmer producing biogas and an offshore platform worker near the Canary Islands. All interviewees share their enthusiasm, ambitions and hopes for different renewable energy installations across Europe, contributing to a cleaner and safer energy system for all EU citizens.

Renewable energy prosumers

Energy communities were first mentioned in the Clean Energy for All Europeans package, adopted in 2019, aimed at organizing collective energy actions allowing citizens to actively participate in the clean energy transition. He highlighted their role in increasing local acceptance of renewable energy projects and involving them in the consumption and production of renewable energy, making them prosumers of energy.

By 2050, half of EU citizens could produce up to half of the EU’s renewable energy. In addition to becoming producers, members of energy communities have the potential to provide direct benefits to their citizens by advancing energy efficiency, reducing their electricity bills (in today’s high price environment) and creating local employment opportunities. At the same time, they help attract private investment in local clean energy projects.

In April 2022, the Commission launched the ‘Energy Communities Repository’ initiative and the closely related ‘Rural Energy Community Advisory Hub’ initiative will be launched in June 2022. These energy communities projects will help disseminate best practice and provide a technical assistance for the development of concrete community energy initiatives across the EU.

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