Global energy sector facing skills shortage, IEA warns

15th November 2023


Green technologies are driving job growth in the world’s energy sector, but skill shortages are an increasing concern, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned.

In a report published today, the agency reveals that employment in the global energy sector rose to 67 million people last year, an increase of 3.5 million from pre-pandemic levels.

More than half of the new jobs were in just five sectors: solar PV, wind, electric vehicles (EVs) and batteries, heat pumps, and critical minerals mining.

As a result, clean energy employment now represents over half of total energy sector jobs, having overtaken fossil fuels in 2021.

However, a survey by the IEA with 160 energy firms globally found that skilled labour shortages are a key barrier to ramping up activity, with supply failing to keep pace with demand.

This is particularly true for vocational workers like electricians specialised for energy-sector work, as well as professionals in science, technology and engineering.

“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,” said IEA executive director Fatih Birol.

“Governments, industry and educational institutions need to put in place programmes 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.”

The uptick of clean energy jobs occurred in every region of the world, with China home to the largest energy workforce today, accounting for the greatest share of jobs added globally.

Around 36% of the world’s energy workers are in high-skilled occupations, compared with about 27% for the wider economy.

Jobs in fossil fuel industries have also seen an increase year-on-year, but the rebound has been more subdued, leaving employment below pre-pandemic levels, despite oil and gas companies experiencing record revenues in 2022.

The IEA forecasts that 30 million new clean energy jobs will be created if the energy sector is to be consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, with close to 13 million jobs in fossil fuel-related industries at risk

This means that around two clean energy jobs would be created for every fossil fuel-related job lost.

The report comes after IEMA launched its Green Careers Hub, providing businesses and individuals with all the information they need on green skills and potential career pathways.

Over 40 organisations and businesses have also recently backed IEMA’s campaign to get green skills and training on the agenda at COP28.

CEO, Sarah Mukherjee MBE, commented: “IEMA is sending a strong message to government, along with colleagues from a wide range of organisations and businesses, that we need to start addressing the skills gaps to adapt to the real climate emergency.

“We’re delighted to be supported by so many organisations who recognise, like we do, the great need for a green-skilled workforce both domestically and internationally.”

Image credit: Shutterstock

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