Global renewables industries supported a record 11.5 million jobs in 2019, but governments will need to “supercharge” the energy transition to keep growth on track amid Covid, said the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena).

The 2019 renewable energy jobs figure, up from 11 million in 2018, was dominated by solar by technology and Asia geographically, according to the latest employment data from the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena).

PV was by far the biggest employer, accounting for 33% of global renewables jobs with a total of 3.8 million employed, while Asia accounted for 63% of posts by region. The common factor between the two is the Chinese solar industry, the biggest for both PV equipment and installations, which employed 2.2 million on its own last year, the Irena figures show.

Recharge reported today how Europe is being tipped by another global body, the International Energy Agency (IEA), to see a boom in PV installations as the technology becomes that continent's biggest source of power.

Wind was the fourth-largest sector by employment in 2019 with almost 1.2 million posts, said Irena, trailing second-placed liquid biofuels and hydropower, according to Irena's data.

The global renewables body said renewables industries showed “more inclusion and a better gender balance than fossil fuels”, with 32% of roles held by women compared to 21% in the latter.

However, the report highlights how that isn’t reflected in the proportion of science, technology and engineering-based posts held by women compared to administrative roles – and how the wind industry is lagging behind other clean energy sectors in gender representation, with only the same percentage of women employed as the fossil industry.

Irena wants more attention given to helping a switch from polluting sectors, coinciding with a UK poll that shows offshore oil and gas workers looking to leave a fading industry with renewables the most popular alternative.

“Policymakers must also prioritise reskilling for fossil fuel sector workers who have lost or are at risk of losing their livelihoods. Many have considerable skills and expertise to contribute to a reoriented, clean energy industry,” said Irena director-general Francesco La Camera.

Irena said despite disruption to projects and manufacturing in 2020, renewables look so far to have fared better than fossil sectors in terms of the impacts of Covid-19.

La Camera said the economic turmoil created by the coronavirus pandemic means governments should “focus on supercharging the energy transition” to keep the momentum going, with the potential to get to 30 million renewables jobs by 2030 and 42 million by 2050.