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Creating jobs for renewable energy

May 09,2018
Lee Sang-hoon
*Director of the Green Energy Strategy Institute

Renewable energy already makes up an important portion of global energy supply. Especially for the 35 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), one-fourth of the electricity is generated in forms of renewable energy such as hydraulic, wind and solar power generation.

But there is another reason for accelerated expansion of renewable energy lately. Renewable energy contributes to economic vitalization and job creation. As Germany transitions to renewable energy, it emphasizes industrial innovation and green economy and utilization of local economy as much as energy security or response to climate change.

Internationally, 65 percent of the capacity of new power generation facilities comes from renewable solar, wind and hydraulic energy. Bloomberg predicts that solar and wind energy will make up 72 percent of the total new generating unit capacities by 2040. Renewable energy became mainstream in the electricity market thanks to improved economic efficiency. In Europe, the Middle East and North and South America, the cost of large-scale solar and wind power generation has fallen to a level similar to nuclear and thermal power generation. Expansion of renewable energy is also effective in creating jobs. According to a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), there are 9.8 million direct and indirect jobs in the renewable energy sector as of 2016. The solar energy field hires 3.1 million jobs, bioenergy 2.74 million, hydraulic energy 1.52 million and wind energy 1.16 million jobs. It is evident that for a facility for the same capacity, renewable energy offers more jobs.

Among the 35 OECD members, Korea has the lowest portion of renewable energy generation. Until the Renewable Energy 3020 Action Plan was announced in December 2017, not many government officials, experts, companies and citizens considered renewable energy as one of the electricity mix.

But renewable energy is already a global trend. Even if the goal of 20 percent renewable energy generation by 2030 is attained, Korea would still be one of the lowest in the OECD. To enjoy the effect of expanded renewable energy and earn the fruit of vitalized green economy, we need to focus the experience and capacity of rapid growth that Korea has shown for economic and democratic development on renewable energy.