Generating sustainable jobs in the renewable energy sector

Man selling solar devices

In 2020, 12 million people were employed in the global renewable energy sector, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). There is no doubt that this sector and energy efficiency promotion has the potential to create decent and sustainable jobs, especially for young people.

Increased employment in the sector also solidifies the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to increase sustainable incomes whilst mitigating climate emissions.

The government's current goal in Ghana is to incorporate 10% of renewable energy into its energy generation mix. It also ensures demand-side management by providing standards and enforcing regulations around electrical equipment efficiency, especially for households.

The Boosting Green Employment and Enterprise Opportunities in Ghana (GrEEn) Project supports job creation and market development in the renewable energy sector through its SME incubation support to innovative start-ups. Also, it equips prospective employees with industry-needed skills through SNV's Opportunities for Youth Employment Approach. This approach offers young people the necessary entrepreneurship and employability skills to gain or create sustainable work and businesses in high-impact potential markets. Renewable energy products and technologies (such as solar PV systems, biodigester and biogas, improved cookstoves and fuels) create more jobs per unit of energy produced compared to conventional energy technologies. Also, the addition of energy efficiency and emerging innovations is creating more specialised jobs within every sector where energy is a catalyst for economic growth.

The practicality of job creation in the energy sector

Its impact on job creation is clear after looking at the supply chains created by using and developing local renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies and products. This can be seen on three levels: direct, indirect and induced. For example, Amina is an entrepreneur who produces and sells briquettes from waste coconut shells. Her employees Kwame and Yayra wanted to find jobs to enhance their income. As they live in a community struggling with coconut waste, they started to collect and sell the shells and even buy them from coconut sellers around the community and its environs to sell them to Amina. It has resulted in indirect job creation and income increase.

At the end of the spectrum is Emmanuel, who operates a restaurant and uses Amina's briquettes for cooking. Emmanuel saves on the amount of fuel and energy used for cooking. He frees up extra income to purchase more organic vegetable produce from Fafa's farm or sustainable clothing, generating jobs for Fafa and other green businesses. At the same time, Amina and Emmanuel contribute to a cleaner environment, one of the biggest challenges that the world is currently facing.

Direct jobs include sales, installation, maintenance, financing, construction, optimisation and operations. Indirect include aggregators of raw materials used for renewable energy products and technologies. Induction occurs as a result of the economic development provided to the pair due to their increased income level and ability to purchase consumer products and services. The agriculture sector is one industry that benefits from incorporating renewable energy technologies into its operations. These include Solar-Powered Irrigation Systems (SPISs), solar dryers etc.

Growth in the circular economy

SNV supports start-ups within the circular economy to refine their energy inventions and prototypes. In addition to supporting organisations to find green investments to scale up and create local job opportunities. Through investment fora, the 6-month Incubation and Acceleration Programmes, and technical and vocational skills development under the Opportunities for Youth Employment (OYE) programme, the GrEEn Project is creating a conducive environment for the growth of the circular economy. Take the example of ABZ Automations, a start-up renewable energy business manufacturing automatic pump switches to reduce water and energy wastage. SNV Ghana has helped this company and several green MSMEs structure their businesses, implement tailor-made strategies, identify and mitigate their challenges and grow to create jobs.

Climate adaptation

Rising temperatures are reducing incomes and impacting the lives of people living in poverty. For example, East Africa is recording months of intensive droughts that have resulted in crop failure, animal death and food insecurity across the globe, whereas the United Kingdom recorded its hottest temperatures to date in July 2022.

Renewable energy and energy efficiency products and services are directly working to adapt to these climate impacts by offering cooling strategies that tackle our ever-rising temperatures and water scarcity. In addition to reducing the workload of people, especially women living in rural communities, as fuel collection and cooking can be very labour-intensive.

Enabling environment and finance

Overall, promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency products and services translates into increased income and will encourage investment in economic value sectors while also lifting living standards.

Creating an enabling environment to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies is necessary. This will mean constant dialogue with the government on favourable policies that encourage rather than constrain the market.

Private innovative financing and policies and practices from governments that target renewable energy and energy efficiency SMEs and stakeholders means increased innovation and growth of the sector. Private equity and mezzanine financing are grey areas still being assessed and hold much promise in providing alternative funding sources for green technologies.

Written by: Michael Kofi Abrokwaa, Energy Advisor, GrEEn Project

This blog and its content do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.