Renewable Energy and the Employment Impact

Renewable energy has a demonstrated job creation effect. Generating energy from solar photovoltaic cells, landfill gas, or biomass plants have a higher number of jobs created per unit of energy produced than energy produced through conventional sources.

The positive job creation effect of renewable energy is a result of longer and more diverse supply chains, higher labour intensity, and increased net profit margins. Jobs in renewable energy can be created directly and indirectly along the entire value chain, including in the manufacturing and distribution of equipment; the production of inputs such as chemicals; or even in services like project management, installation, operation, and maintenance.

Of course, as the demand for energy from renewable sources increases, it is expected that there will be a decrease in demand for oil, coal, and gas. In addition, new technologies will demand new skills and if not addressed at the onset, a lack of suitable skills can create bottlenecks when introducing technology to drive the adoption of renewable energy.

As a solution, retraining and supplementary training can overcome these challenges, as skills needed in the renewable energy sectors do not necessarily differ substantially from those in conventional energy sectors. As new installations are undertaken, the skills set demand might shift to a decreased focus on manufacturing and installation and a greater demand for maintenance and management skills. Targeted short-term programmes, for example retraining electricians to become installers of photovoltaic solar panels, is a practical solution to overcoming the skills set challenge. Others, such as potential managers or engineers, will need additional training. The creation of new professions in renewable energy also has the potential to integrate vulnerable groups in the labour market, such as women and young persons, through targeted training.

Finally, awareness and general public understanding of the opportunities arising from a shift to renewable energies – both at the social and environmental level – are the cornerstones to acceptance and public involvement.

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