Case Studies

July 17, 2019

Eva Lee

Decentralized Renewables Powering Jobs Growth in Emerging Markets

The future of work is a source of major uncertainty, particularly in emerging economies. The growing impact of climate change, compounded by an increase in automation and mechanization, affects the predictability and availability of work for millions in farming, which employs over 65% of the continent’s labor force. Meanwhile, as jobs grow scarce, recent improvements in healthcare access have lead to a youth explosion. Employment data suggests that women and youth are the hardest impacted by the dearth of employment opportunities. Youth unemployment rate is 10% in India and almost 20% in Kenya and Nigeria.

Amid this challenge, there is a major opportunity for employment through delivering energy access to almost 1 billion people. Decentralized renewable energy (DRE) solutions—including solar lanterns, solar home systems, standalone and grid-tied commercial and industrial (C&I)  solar systems, solar water pumps and heaters, and mini-grids—are at the center of that transition. A potential of 4.5 million DRE direct jobs could be created globally by 2030, which would account for more than one-sixth of the global renewable energy workforce, estimated at 24 million by 2030. Importantly, in addition to direct jobs, there are clear signs that access to electricity is also creating productive use jobs within the communities gaining that access. Thus DRE technologies are not only a key part of the solution for achieving universal energy access (SDG 7) but are a direct solution to decent work and job creation (SDG 8). 


According to a World Economic Forum report, human capital is the area that is least prepared for the energy transition in emerging economies. In other words, the energy workforce lacks the necessary skills to fully realize the transition. National decision makers in energy-poor regions thus have a unique opportunity to invest in training the needed entrepreneurial, technical, financial and managerial talent to deliver universal energy access and create millions of jobs in the process. 

A key barrier to informed decision-making remains: the lack of quality data. There are few studies to date that provide an accurate job count for the DRE sector, and there is little quantitative data on the specific skills gaps that need to be filled to unlock the growth. In late 2018, Power for All launched the Powering Jobs campaign with two goals: 1) commissioning an annual jobs census for the entire DRE sector to understand its employment potential and 2) using that data to move energy access skills and training from the margins to the center of policy.
This jobs census is the first of its kind, bottom-up count of employment in the DRE sector for emerging economies, with nearly 150 companies in India, Kenya and Nigeria responding to the survey. It is the most comprehensive job census known to date, creating a baseline for future data collection and in-depth understanding of DRE employment potential.


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