New technologies and business models create a constant churn of labour market disruption. Robots, driverless cars and other forms of automation will mean millions fewer jobs worldwide. On the other hand, fast-growing renewable energy technologies are catalyzing huge numbers of new jobs – 10.3 million at the last count – with massive potential for more.
But two thirds of these jobs so far are in Brazil, China, the EU and the US. Precious few are in emerging economies that desperately need clean energy and well-paid jobs. This includes countries in many parts of South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, where enormous populations have no electricity at all.
The obstacle for the green jobs gap? A lack of appropriate skills and entrepreneurs.
Despite growing demand for home solar systems, mini-grids and other distributed renewable energy (DRE) solutions in Africa and Asia, there is a growing shortage of job-ready talent to finance, develop, install, operate and manage these systems. The skill gap is especially severe in remote, rural areas, where energy poverty, swelling youth populations and joblessness are most severe.
Sub-Saharan Africa faces the biggest challenge. This region has more than 600 million people living without electricity and only 16,000 people working in the renewable energy sector (excluding South Africa), according to the latest data from IRENA. Meanwhile, 12 to 13 million African youth enter the labour market every year, yet only three million get formal jobs. India, which has nearly 300 million people living without electricity, is pushing to build 175 gigawatts of solar and wind energy by 2022. Achieving this goal will require 300,000 renewable energy workers, a substantial increase on current numbers.
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