Off-grid energy systems already employ as many people as centralized utilities in India, Kenya, and Nigeria, and that total is expected to more than double by 2022-23, Power for All reports in its first-ever census of employment in rural electrification.
The census was limited to the three initial centres in its first year, but will be expanded to 25 countries in 2021, the organization explains in a release. Even so, “the census provides the most comprehensive and granular data yet on energy access jobs created by decentralized renewable energy (DRE), which includes solar for home and business, green mini-grids, and machinery for productive use such as irrigation pumps.”
“Access to electricity means access to jobs,” said lead author and Power for All Chief Research Officer Dr. Rebekah Shirley. “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.”
That means “policy-makers, donors, and the private sector have an opportunity to increase support for decentralized renewables and build a diverse, inclusive, and equitable work force for the energy infrastructure of the future.”
The release points to the significant employment opportunity in the UN Sustainable Development Goal that calls for sustainable, modern energy access to be extended to nearly a billion people who lack it by 2030. It notes that young women and men aged 15 to 24 make up 25% of the labour force in India and more than 34% in sub-Saharan Africa, and 10 to 20% of the unemployed.
“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,” the release states.
The report points to off-grid electrification as a “rural jobs multiplier”, producing five times as many indirect jobs by supporting productive use of energy in areas like crop irrigation. Distributed renewable energy companies “create skilled jobs that largely fall within the middle-income range for their respective countries,” the release adds, and “employee retention is also better than utility-scale power—more than two-thirds of jobs are full-time and long-term.”
While youth hold about 40% of the industry’s jobs, the release points to women’s low participation—at just 25% of the off-grid energy work force—as a serious challenge. It attributes the problem 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.”In New Delhi, ETEnergyWorld reports the distributed renewables sector is on track to create 400,000 direct and indirect jobs across India by 2023.