The Promise of Green Jobs – International PV Journal

City says 7,000 summer jobs are available for Boston youth ages 14 to 18

The promise of replacing fossil fuel jobs with an equal number of clean energy roles in coal-dependent societies is too simplistic and ignores the fact that societies need to be brought together with reliable expectations of better-quality employment.

From pv global magazine 04/23

Not all green jobs are created equal but they all address the equity dimension of a just transition. With women representing 32% of the clean energy workforce — more than 21% are in the fossil fuel industry — there is hope for gender parity. But we need a shift from quantity of jobs to quality and a new way of talking about green employment.

“Houston, we have a problem,” is how the energy transition was framed at recent CERAWeek, the annual energy conference organized by US-based financial information firm S&P Global. These words were said by Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, CEO of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and President-designate of this year’s COP28 Climate Summit, which will be held in the UAE. This warning should resonate with the global economy, which has reached peak oil.

It got me thinking about my transition from big oil to the vast global potential of renewables as I attended CERAW Week on my second visit to Texas – arguably the energy capital of the world. My choice was less about leaps and bounds in the energy transition — the topic of a conversation on emerging market finance — and more about finding co-benefits rather than trade-offs in my search for innovation.

CERAWeek is traditionally a tough rally for energy transition messages, but a recent analysis by the sustainability research body the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) has made plain the bare facts: The energy revolution is being televised. Either we wake up to that reality now or, as the effects of climate change intensify We’ll soon find out that we’re living in a nightmare.

While climate change can sometimes feel like watching the movie “Titanic,” the energy transition is no movie. However, as we head into Oscar season, it’s worth noting films like Hidden Figures and The Boy Who Harnesses the Wind to highlight the key role African-American women played in Landing Moon and how a young boy from Malawi imagined a world independent of oil.

Jobs dilemma

Industries such as societies dependent on solar energy and fossil fuels may share the frustration. The latter may seem invisible in the face of a relentless energy transition, as promising, sometimes unconvincing, as green hiring. Solar advocates may be frustrated by those with the STEM skills necessary for the clean energy sector who continue to be drawn to better paying jobs in extractive industries.

The first International Energy Agency report on energy employment revealed that more than half of the world’s energy sector jobs are now in clean energy, but the latest study by the International Renewable Energy Agency and the International Labor Organization only reported 12.7 million renewable energy jobs – 4.3 million solar jobs. We need 30 million this contract for a net zero in 2050.

Appreciating green jobs are not created equal is the first step to understanding the hidden costs to societies of losing fossil fuel jobs. Likewise, highlighting the benefits of a just transition beyond employment is leading to new conversations about true renewal of societies that depend on fossil fuels. In “Titanic” terms, it took a few shipwrecks for humanity to wake up to the danger of icebergs, and the Marshall Islands Institute’s Green Jobs Report (see chart below) took a similar approach.

Energy Employment

But where are the icebergs ahead? Are they in Asia or Africa? What is beyond doubt is the diminishing role of fossil fuels in the face of the rapid, accelerating transformation driving the need for a flexible and adaptable global workforce. To adapt in a just and equitable way to a new world and climate change, the energy transition must go beyond “job gain”.

Through a broader perspective, it is possible to see this radical energy transition calling for better alignment with workers’ expectations and needs. As the world moves increasingly toward a sustainable and even regenerative economy, new opportunities will emerge in addressing declining natural resources, adapting to climate change, and building circular physical pathways. We also need to move beyond “job inequality,” where workers can then consider the non-quantitative aspects of offsetting fossil fuels: where are those jobs, how long will they last, and what will they pay now and in the future for oil, gas and coal stranded assets.

In the Global South, there are structural barriers to societal investment that must be overcome by reducing financial risk and building technical capacity, so we must also go beyond the number of green jobs being created, to focus on who they are created for. After Women’s History Month, I was pleased to see the conversation in Houston increasingly led by women. And they represent the segment of the population most likely to benefit from green jobs, the data shows (see below).

Gender Opportunity

Initiatives including the RMI Energy Transition Academy and the Women in Renewable Energy Network present opportunities to expand support for those who take a leap of faith away from fossil fuels. We must find ways to increase the proportion of women who have technical and managerial responsibility, so that they are in the driving seat.

Raul Alfaro PelicoAbout the author: Raul Alvaro Pellico He is Senior Director of the Global South Program at RMI. He leads policy advisory, thought leadership, capacity development, technical support, and investment preparation support for a zero-zero, resilient, and prosperous world. Alvaro-Pellico oversees the Energy Africa Program, which provides energy access and clean energy de-risking projects, and the Energy Transition Academy, which empowers upper- and mid-level practitioners in the electricity, industrial, and financial sectors of the Global South.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those and views of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions espoused by him Photoelectricity Journal.

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