The production and use of energy account for more than 75% of EU’s greenhouse gas emissions. Decarbonising the energy system is therefore critical to reach the EU’s long-term aim to become climate-neutral by 2050.
Energy coming from renewable sources is essential for “cleaning” 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 job opportunities across various sectors, steering dialogues between communities and presenting opportunities for more equal and inclusive standards in the energy sector.
A growing market
The EU’s renewable target for 2020 was to reach the share of renewable energy of at least 20% in the overall EU energy mix. In 2018, the new target for 2030 was set at 32%. With the European Green Deal, the Commission aimed even higher and suggested in July 2021 to increase the renewables target for all EU countries to 40%. On 18 May 2022, the Commission proposed in its REPowerEU plan to raise the target to 45% to further accelerate EU’s phase out of Russian fossil fuel dependence. This proposal will now be worked on by the European Parliament and the Council.
Currently, most of the jobs in the EU energy sector are linked to conventional energy sources such as oil, gas, coal and nuclear. But clean energy technologies are becoming a dynamic area for investment and employment, leading to 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, where possible, to transfer skills. This is already happening in EU coal regions. The European Commission has initiatives in place to help and support a just transition for coal regions, both in the EU and in the Western Balkans and Ukraine, on their path towards decarbonisation.
Due to the EU’s long-term goal of climate neutrality and its recent pledge to shed its dependency on imported fuels, the EU renewable energy sector is bound to grow, and much faster than initially planned. Already in 2020 the renewable energy related industry turnover in EU-27 countries amounted to around €163 billion, representing a gross growth of around €13.7 billion in comparison to 2019 (+9.2%).
Amongst the renewable energy sources, solar photovoltaics, wind and bioenergy are already mature industries and significant employers both globally and in the EU. In 2020, 24% of the total EU employment in the renewable sector was linked to heat pumps (318 000 jobs), followed by 22% in biofuels (283 000 jobs) and 21% in wind power (280 400 jobs), and around 1.3 million persons 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 employment), France (164 400 jobs, 13%), Spain (140 500 jobs, 11%) and Italy (99 900 jobs, 8%).
What are the renewable energy jobs?
In the coming years, more people will enter job sectors linked to renewable energy technologies, but what will those jobs look like? To bring renewable energy production and its benefits at economical, societal and industrial levels to the fore, the Commission’s Directorate-General for Energy is launching a series of video testimonials of people sharing their experiences working in different renewable energy installations 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 turbine plant in Ireland.
Counting with the participation of female workers, this series contributes to showing the importance of an equal and inclusive dimension for the success of the energy transition. In 2019, male workers represented 80% of the total workforce in the EU energy sector. To reduce the gender gap and contribute to the diversification of workforce in this sector, the Commission established in October 2021 the Equality platform for the energy sector, which brings together energy stakeholders committed towards equality and inclusion.
By the end of June, the next video presenting an electrician working on a solar farm in Poland. It will be followed by other examples including the city mayor of a Swedish city, a technician in a hydropower station in Austria, an Italian farmer producing biogas and an offshore platform worker close to the Canary Islands. All people interviewed share their enthusiasm, ambitions and hopes in 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 referred to in the Clean energy for all Europeans package, adopted in 2019, aiming at organising collective energy actions that allow citizens to actively participate in the clean energy transition. It emphasised their role to increase local acceptance of renewable energy projects and to involve them in the consumption and production of renewable energy, making them energy prosumers.
By 2050, half of EU’s citizens could be producing up to half of the EU’s renewable energy. Besides becoming producers, people in energy communities have the potential to provide direct benefits to its citizens by advancing energy efficiency, lowering their electricity bills (in the current high-prices environment) and creating local job opportunities. At the same time, they contribute to attracting private investments in local clean energy projects.
In April 2022, the Commission launched the initiative “Energy Communities Repository” and the closely linked initiative “Rural Energy Community Advisory Hub” will be launched in June 2022. These energy communities projects will contribute to the dissemination of best practices and provide technical assistance for the development of concrete energy community initiatives across the EU.
16 May 2022