Renewable jobs report shows hydropower's global significance

30 September 2020

Hydropower is the third largest renewables employer, with almost two million people working in the industry, according to the latest jobs report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

A record 11.5 million people were employed by all renewable industries in 2019, of which 1.93 million people were directly employed in hydropower. China, Brazil, the United States and Canada were the top hydropower employers followed by Pakistan, Vietnam, Russia and Myanmar.    

Despite its status as the world’s largest source of renewable energy and its “huge untapped potential”, IRENA says hydropower employment in 2019 was around six per cent lower than in 2018, as growth slowed and new projects were delayed in several countries.

As a consequence of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, IRENA projects the employment figure to fall further during 2020 given further delays in construction during national lockdowns.

In response, Eddie Rich, Chief Executive of the International Hydropower Association (IHA) said: “This report underlines hydropower’s global significance as a major renewable sector employer as well as the urgent need to invest in new and sustainable hydropower projects.”

“Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, IHA has highlighted the centrality of sustainable hydropower as part of the green recovery.

“IRENA estimates an additional 850 GW of newly installed hydropower capacity is needed by 2050 to help achieve the carbon reduction commitments of the Paris Agreement. This could generate an additional 600,000 skilled jobs over the next decade.

"To achieve this will require concerted action including improved financial incentives and compensation for the flexibility and resilience services provided by hydropower. The green economic stimulus packages begin announced around the world give us the opportunity to make this goal a reality.”

The jobs report comes days after the second meeting of IRENA’s Collaborative Framework on Hydropower, a forum initiated by the Swiss government and supported by 49 countries on 24 September 2020.

At the meeting, Mr Francesco La Camera, IRENA Director-General, cited hydropower’s role as a source of power system resilience. “As an enabler for integrating higher shares of renewable energy into power systems, hydropower is set to play an important role in the energy transition and will be critical to the decarbonisation of economies.”

“Promoting the continued deployment of hydropower has been, and remains, an important part of IRENA’s work,” La Camera said.

According to IRENA, hydropower is the cheapest renewable on a Levelised Cost of Electricity (LCOE) basis.

Learn more about hydropower and the impact of the Covid-19 crisis.  


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