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COP26: Call made for renewable energy job creation

More than 130 renewable energy leaders, under the auspices of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Coalition for Action, have launched a Call to Action for COP26, encouraging all governments at national, regional, and local levels to ensure access to high-quality, sustainable jobs during the energy transition.

Limiting the earth’s temperature rise to 1.5oC by 2050 requires a full decarbonisation of the energy sector. As such, the clean energy transition must progress rapidly. But to build a climate-resilient future, the energy transition must advance in a just and inclusive manner, leaving nobody behind.

As countries convene in Glasgow to re-align strategies and renew ambitions at the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), there is an opportunity to increase momentum of the global energy transition – and a transition grounded in renewable energy has been proven to generate widespread socio-economic benefits, including jobs.

“Leaving fossil fuels behind, we need to make sure that everybody can participate in a low-carbon economy. Policies are needed to make the best use of renewable energy players’ insights and best practices in driving a renewable energy market and creating adequate and equal opportunities for all,” says IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera.

The Renewable Energy and Jobs: Annual Review 2021 report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) finds that the renewable energy sector offered employment to 12 million people in 2020 – a steady increase since 2012 at 7.3 million. Renewable energy jobs are also more inclusive, showing better gender balance with 32 per cent women employed in the sector, compared to 22 per cent in the fossil fuels sector. These records provide a very promising insight into a clean energy future.

With the clock ticking, members of Coalition for Action urge governments to consider the following five recommended actions in their decision-making to accelerate a just and inclusive energy transition, at COP26 this week:

  • Comprehensive structural and just transition policies are critical to secure the benefits and manage labour market misalignments that result from the energy transition.
  • Concrete and resilient finance mechanisms are required for countries to equitably transition away from fossil fuels.
  • Job and enterprise creation in the renewable energy sector must be complemented with labour and socio-economic policies in the energy sector.
  • Long-term partnerships between industry, labour unions and governments are essential to ensure job security and social protection, especially in areas particularly impacted by the energy transition (e.g., coal mining regions).
  • Data-driven actions and solutions are needed to support targeted policies that encourage job creation, capacity building and reskilling to empower those disproportionately impacted, such as women, youth and minorities.

See a more detailed view of the IRENA Coalition for Action’s Call to Action for COP26.

IRENA reveals latest renewable energy data

Companies in 75 countries actively sourced 465 terawatt hours (TWh) of renewable energy in 2017, an amount close to the overall electricity demand of France, according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

With the continued decline in the costs of renewables, the report suggests, corporate demand will continue to increase as companies seek to reduce electricity bills, hedge against future price spikes and address sustainability concerns.

Corporate Sourcing of Renewables: Market and Industry Trends, the first global assessment of trends and policies in corporate sourcing of renewables, shows that renewable energy sourcing by private sector companies, made possible with the right policy framework in place, can be a key factor in the world’s pursuit of a sustainable energy transformation in line with the objectives set out in the Paris Agreement.

According to the report, environmental and sustainability concerns, social responsibility and reputation management and economic and financial objectives are the three primary drivers of corporate sourcing.

“Renewable energy sourcing has become a mainstream pillar of business strategy in recent years,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “While environmental concerns initiated this growing trend, the strengthening business case and price stability offered by renewables can deliver a competitive advantage to corporations, and support sustainable growth.”

The findings of the report show that half of the over 2,400 large companies analysed are voluntarily and actively procuring or investing in self-generation of renewable electricity for their operations. Of the companies in the study, more than 200 source at least half of their power from renewables. Electricity self-generation is the most common sourcing model, followed by unbundled energy attribute certificates (EACs) and power purchase agreements (PPAs).

“Corporations are responsible for around two-thirds of the world’s total final electricity demand, making them central to, and key actors in, the energy transformation,” continued Mr. Amin. “As governments all over the world recognise this vast potential, the development of policies that foster and encourage corporate sourcing in the electricity sector and beyond will inject additional needed investment in renewable energy.”

The report finds that the corporate sourcing trend is widespread and dynamic, with companies participating in the practice coming from various sectors. By volume, the majority of renewable electricity was consumed in the materials sector while the highest shares of renewable electricity consumption are found in the financial (24 per cent) and information technology (12 per cent) sectors. Countries in Europe and North America continue to account for the bulk of corporate sourcing.

Of the companies analysed in the report, only 17 per cent have a renewable electricity target in place. Three-quarters of those targets will expire before 2020, representing a significant opportunity for corporates to develop new medium to long-term renewable energy strategies and targets that factor in improvements in renewable energy technology and cost declines

The report is a contribution to the Clean Energy Ministerial “Corporate Sourcing of Renewables” campaign, co-led by China, Denmark and Germany and co-ordinated by IRENA.

View and download the Executive Summary of the report here.