IRENA: Global biofuel, bioenergy jobs at 12.7 million in 2021

By Erin Voegele | September 28, 2022

Worldwide renewable energy employment reached 12.7 million last year, according to a report released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) on Sept. 22. Liquid biofuels, solid biomass and biogas accounted for a combined 3.44 million, or roughly 27 percent, of those jobs, down from 3.52 million jobs in 2020.

According to IRENA, liquid biofuels accounted for 2.421 million jobs globally in 2021, second only to the solar photovoltaic industry’s 4.291 million jobs. Solid biomass accounted for 716,000 jobs and biogas accounted for 307,000 jobs, according to the agency. Hydropower, wind energy, solar heating/cooling, geothermal energy, CSP, municipal and industrial waste, and other technologies accounted for 2.37 million, 1.371 million, 769,000, 196,000, 79,00, 30,00, and 126,000 jobs, respectively.

IRENA estimates that worldwide biofuel employment last year was at 2.4 million. Most of those jobs were in planting and harvesting feedstock. The agency said fuel processing employs relatively few people globally, but typically pays higher wages.

Latin America accounted for 44 percent of biofuels jobs last year, while Asia accounted for 36 percent, North America accounted for 14 percent and Europe accounted for 6.4 percent.

According to the report, highly mechanized biofuel operations in the U.S. required a direct and indirect labor force of approximately 322,600 people in 2020. The report estimates that 2021 U.S. employment included 258,700 jobs associated with ethanol and 63,900 jobs associated with biodiesel.

In the European Union, biofuel employment was estimated at 141,600 jobs in 2020. Brazil remains the world’s largest biofuels employer with an estimated 863,000 jobs. Other countries with large numbers of biofuel workers include Indonesia at 555,900, Colombia at 187,500, Thailand at 133,900, Malaysia at 61,400 and the Philippines at 34,300.

IRENA estimates worldwide employment in solid biomass at 716,000. That figure includes jobs related to power and heat applications, but does not include jobs associated with traditional biomass. Of those 716,000 jobs, 314,000 are located in the European Union, with 190,000 in China, 58,000 in India and 46,300 in the U.S. The 46,300 U.S. jobs in solid biomass include an estimated 33,898 jobs in woody biomass fuels and 12,388 jobs in biomass power.

Global biogas employment is estimated at 307,000 jobs, that includes 146,000 jobs in China, 85,000 jobs in India and 64,000 jobs in the EU. The report does not include data on biogas jobs in the U.S.

A full copy of the report, titled “Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2022,” is available on the IRENA website