24 November, 2023 ARE article

Renewable energy solutions to create thousands of green jobs in rural areas

ANKA Madagascar

Across the world renewable energy solutions are expected to create 45 million direct jobs by 2050. This energy revolution promises a cleaner and more sustainable future for our planet while offering unprecedented employment opportunities. At the core of this evolution, decentralised renewable energy (DRE) solutions stand out in particular for stimulating green employment in rural regions where they can transform the lives of rural communities by providing affordable and sustainable energy solutions.

This was demonstrated by a recent study conducted by the Alliance for Rural Electrification (ARE), with the support of the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation (KAS) on “Catalysing Green Rural Job Creation with Decentralised Renewable Energies in West Africa”. The study concluded that government commitments pushing the green transition could further drive rural development by creating jobs and at the same time mitigate climate change.

Ghana & Senegal: Lighting the way

Taking a closer look at the transformation potential, the study centred on Ghana and Senegal—two countries representing different market sizes and development stages also with regards to DRE market development. The results of the ARE study, with the support of KAS, reveal that DRE companies in these countries already create thousands of direct jobs, with consideration for women and young individuals. In Ghana, the DRE sector employs 2,511 people, with 34% being women and 7% aged below 25. In Senegal, approximately 1,500 people are employed in the DRE sector, with 23% being women and 10% aged below 25.

Perpetuating green jobs for tomorrow

While some jobs in construction and manufacturing may decrease once universal access is achieved, the study presents an optimistic outlook overall. The shift to larger and more efficient DRE systems will sustain numerous jobs, especially in the maintenance and operation of electricity networks. Long-term planning and skill development programs will be essential to meet the growing demand in the DRE market and ensure a sustainable green job creation.

Opportunities offered by DRE, beyond direct employment

DRE projects not only create direct jobs but also open pathways to indirect and induced employment opportunities, supporting the growth of the agricultural sector amongst others.

Through the reliable renewable energy sources provided, farmers can use water pumps and desalination installations, facilitating the growth of additional crops for example. This expansion of the agricultural sector allows farmers to expand their activities and employ more workers, stimulating local economies and creating a ripple effect of indirect employment opportunities. Consequently, DRE plays a vital role as an energy solution and a catalyst for broader economic development.

Another important aspect of DRE’s impact on job creation is its potential to empower women. The productive uses of energy – using energy to generate income and add value – made possible by DRE projects create opportunities for women entrepreneurs to establish small businesses and actively contribute to the economic growth of their communities. From using electric sewing machines to increase productivity to managing small shops with refrigerators to preserve fresh products, DRE provides opportunities that elevate the economic status and social role of women.

These discoveries underscore the crucial role of DRE as a tool for economic and social development, stimulating the growth of sectors like agriculture. By promoting direct job creation and opening pathways to indirect employment opportunities, DRE proves to be a driving force for the green economy of tomorrow.

Paving the way to a sustainable future

The study on catalysing green jobs through DRE also sheds light on the importance of comprehensive labour and energy policies in shaping a sustainable and promising world for future generations, as Governments play a major role in creating an enabling environment that could support the growth of the DRE sector. With slightly more ambitious policies around rural electrification in Ghana and Senegal more than 40,000 jobs could be created directly through the deployment of these off-grid solutions by 2030. So an exponential number of jobs can be created through access to DRE with the right policies in place.

As governments strive to achieve universal electricity access in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2030, the demand for jobs in DRE is rising. To meet this demand, long-term strategic planning is necessary, encompassing relevant training and vocational programmes to equip the workforce with the necessary skills. Proactive labour and DRE policies remain essential to ensure the continuous expansion of the DRE market and the creation of green jobs, both now and in the future. In addition, the importance of a comprehensive approach in terms of training across sectors is essential as showcased by a case study on Senegal provided in the study, where rural access to energy combined with targeted training in entrepreneurship, as well as micro-loans facilitated by a local bank, led to an astonishing 70-fold increase in induced jobs in the community.

To emphasise the transformative potential of DRE, ARE and KAS jointly organised an event titled “DRE for the Future of Rural Employment” in Ghana and Senegal in October 2023. This event brought together local experts, private sector representatives, and policymakers to discuss the study’s findings, explore opportunities, and chart a sustainable path for the future. By stimulating constructive policy dialogues, future efforts can be directed towards a successful energy transition, creating green jobs, and generating positive impacts on local economies and rural communities.

By embracing the continued prosperity of DRE not only can we embrace clean energy, but we also have the opportunity to revolutionise employment models and uplift rural communities worldwide. Embracing the transformative power of renewable energies is not just a choice; it is an imperative step towards building a sustainable future for generations to come. By uniting the efforts of different political actors, private enterprises, and civil society, it becomes possible to shape a resilient and promising energy future.

Julia Von Franz   |   Policy & Advocacy Officer   |   j.vonfranz@ruralelec.org