Decentralised Renewables – a Job Spinner for Africa

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  • The  first annual jobs census measuring employment from decentralized renewables for rural electrification in Africa and Asia, was released by Power for All yesterday.
  • The census entitled Powering Jobs Census 2019: the Energy Access Workforce, provides the most comprehensive and granular data yet on energy access jobs created by decentralised renewable energy (DRE), which includes solar for home and business, green mini-grids and machinery for productive use such as irrigation pumps.
The study surveyed three countries ─ India, Kenya and Nigeria ─ in its first year, and will expand data collection to 25 countries by 2021. Overall employment data suggests that women and youth are the hardest impacted by the dearth of employment opportunities, particularly those in rural communities.

Africa’s youth population is projected to double by 2050 to 840 million, and the African Development Bank has warned 100 million youth could go without work by 2030. Amid this challenge, however, the employment opportunity from delivering energy access to almost 1 billion people is emerging as a significant opportunity.

“Access to electricity means access to jobs,” said Dr Rebekah Shirley, Power for All’s Chief Research Officer and census lead researcher.

The Powering Jobs census offers strong evidence of the important link between energy access and employment in countries where rural joblessness is at record highs. Policy-makers, donors and the private sector have an opportunity to increase support for decentralised renewables and build a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workforce for the energy infrastructure of the future,” Shirley added.

According to the census findings, decentralised renewables are:

  • A significant employer: although just beginning to scale, decentralised renewable energy companies already directly employ as many workers (i.e. 95,000 in India) as the traditional utility-scale power sector, and that number is expected to more than double on average by 2022-23.
  • A rural jobs multiplier: in addition to direct, formal employment, the sector also accounts for up to 5 times as many jobs created through the productive use of energy (such as crop irrigation) in rural communities being electrified for the first time.
  • Employing a highly-skilled, middle-income workforce: DRE companies delivering electricity access create skilled jobs that largely fall within the middle-income range for their respective countries. Employee retention is also better than utility-scale power – more than 2/3 of jobs are full-time and long-term.
  • Engaging too few women: low participation of women in DRE sector –  only about 25% of the workforce – is related to many broader socio-cultural challenges around gender stereotypes, recruitment biases, discriminatory business cultures, perceptions of gender roles and women’s representation in STEM education.
  • Employing a large number of youth: the sector creates decent work for youth (currently representing 40% of all DRE jobs), which can be an important response to the growing challenge of youth unemployment in emerging economies.
  • Experiencing major skill gaps: there is a growing shortage of job-ready talent to finance, develop, install, operate and market the sector. Management skills, in particular, represent a critical gap for unlocking further sectoral growth.

Source: Power for All

Author: Babalwa Bungane

This article was originally published on ESI Africa and is republished with permission with minor editorial changes.



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