Can Renewable Energy Create Jobs?

As the world population grows close to 8 billion, meeting the demands of people is proving to be a challenge. From the rising energy demands to job opportunities. How do we ensure everyone has access to both? Especially in an economy that is seeing high fuel prices and loss of employment. The answer might lie with the Renewable Energy Sector. Let us find out if it does 

But, before we do that, we need to go back to the traditional energy system – Fossil Fuels 

Fossil Fuel Industry – Pandora’s Box? 

This industry has been meeting our energy needs for decades. Several studies suggest that the growing use of fossil fuel consumption is related to a growing economy. This means that an increase in fossil fuel use led to an increase in economic activities, including more job opportunities for people. Pretty straightforward so far.  


 (Source: Our World in Data) 

There was a hidden cost to this. Little did people know that burning fossil fuels will lead to catastrophic climate change only a few years later.  Piling onpeople also realized that fossil fuels are finite sources of energy –  eventually, we will run out of them.  

What did this doIt raised an alarm globally and prompted people to look for alternative sources of energy. This is where we introduce our protagonist, renewables. Essentially, renewable energy comes from natural sources that are either infinite or replenish themselves quickly, such as the Sun, Wind, and the Ocean.  

Renewables have been around for a few decades now. But fossil fuels still supply 84% of world energy today. There are several reasons for this:  

  1. Governments continue to subsidize fossil fuels making them affordable and accessible to produce and consume.  
  2. Fossil fuels are more energy-dense than renewables. This means that little fossil fuels can produce a lot of energy.  
  3. They are readily available and hence the most convenient source of energy today 
  4. Fossil fuels are also reliable. They can be utilized according to the demand of the people 

Looking at these advantages, huge investments are also made in the fossil fuel sector as the return on investment is high for those looking to generate profit 

Thus, there is little doubt why fossil fuels still dominate the energy sector. While renewable energy has the potential to be truly green and everlasting, fossil fuels are cash green 

Transitioning to Renewable Energy  Is it Worth it? 

As global awareness increases towards the negative effects of fossil fuels, many organizations and communities are pushing renewable energy to the forefront 

Expansion in research, innovation, and policies is making renewables more affordable and accessible to procure, establish and produce energy. If technology costs are reduced, it has the potential to be cost-competitive with fossil fuels. This can incentivize industries, organizations, communities and even individuals to adopt it. This does not mean that renewable energy will have to cut costs somewhere else to provide affordable energy. This would be a promising start.  

(Source: IRENA) 

To give a broad context, studies show that the transition to renewable energy is likely to result in net economic gain for our society. This means that the economy will see substantial growth and result in more jobs and a more efficient and resilient system of electricity production. Sounds like a good deal, doesn’t it?  

So, how is this growth going to happen? Many people say that renewable energy is leading to job losses in the fossil fuel sector. Does this mean that even though renewable energy will net economic gain for our society, it will be at the cost of job losses in the fuel sector? Or is there something more to this story?  

Job Creation in Renewable Energy Sector – A Plot Twist?

IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency) reported that renewables accounted for an estimated 11.5 million jobs worldwide in 2019. Employment in renewables has started spreading more widely, especially through the development of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels which accounted for 33% of the world’s renewable energy workforce.
 

(Source: Vox.com 

So, what is leading to such high growth in the employment sector? At the outset, developing and establishing renewable energy technologies is labourintensive. However, this sector can employ workers from varied skill levels – high, medium, and lowskilled. This means that more people with diverse backgrounds and skills can contribute to the renewable energy sector 

It does not stop there. Governmental policies (including fiscal incentives and policy measures to promote the sector’s expansion), trade patterns supply-chain diversification, and industry consolidation provide a wide variety of development and employment opportunities as well 

Off-grid technology

On top of this, the impact of the sector is directly seen in areas where off-grid technology is implemented. In this case, ‘off-grid’ means that a building, area, or community does not need to be connected to a main electrical supply grid. Off-grid systems can create their energy source like solar or wind and sustain themselves. If done right, this would be a game-changer!   

(Source: Investment in renewable energy generates jobs. Supply of skilled workforce needs to catch up, ILO 

Off-grid renewables account for increasing numbers of direct jobs, as well as employing agro-processing, health care, communications, local commerce, and other productive uses.  

Renewables jobs have already shown more inclusion and a better gender balance than fossil fuels. IRENA reports that women held 32 % of total renewables jobs, as opposed to 21% in fossil fuels sectors. All this almost feels like a feel-good story, right? Hopefully, we stick on this path and maybe have an energy sector that positively impacts our environment, society, and economy. 

Future of Jobs in Renewables – Is It Looking Bright?

It is clear that renewables are making their mark in the employment market – not just providing opportunities but also providing better wages, and better working conditions 

If the employment graph continues to rise, we will see more sectors adopting renewable energy, eventually benefitting the environment and the people. 

Such opportunities almost always contribute to economic growth. However, for renewables to be truly sustainable in the job market, several initiatives and programs need to be put in place to reskill those who are losing their jobs in the fossil fuel sector 

Such an initiative would allow the world to stay on track for creating the 42 million renewables jobs that the ‘Global Renewables Outlook’ projects for 2050. Hopefully, we can achieve this target and maybe even go beyond?  

 It seems like Renewable Energy will be talked about in the coming few years. If you want to know more about it, stay tuned to our platform for insightful perspectives.  

 References: 

Renewable Energy Jobs Continue Growth to 11.5 Million Worldwide 

Renewable Energy Job Boom Creates Economic Opportunity As Coal Industry Slumps 

Global Fossil Fuel Consumption 

Investment in renewable energy generates jobs. Supply of skilled workforce needs to catch up, ILO 

The global transition to clean energy

Read more: 

Why is Green Finance Important  

World Environment Day 2020 – It’s Time For Change 

Carbon Dioxide – An Emission Story 

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