Employment: The least explored part of Renewable Energy Policies
November 26, 2019
Over the past few decades, humanity has exploited the natural resources of mother earth at a much faster rate than ever before! This exploitation is causing undesirable effects on Earth’s atmosphere and even predicted to result in catastrophic failure in future. Science and technology have proved again and again the need to shift from fossil fuels to safeguard humanity and save the Earth from being jeopardized. Anthropogenic activities initiated at the end of 19th century and accelerated at the beginning and mid of 20th century have given birth to the whole new set of problems (such as climate change) that the countries around the globe are facing today at different-yet-increasing intensities. The rise in sea level, changes in global average atmospheric surface temperature, unpredictable patterns of weather events, melting of glaciers, etc. are signals of future fatal events that we human beings should be prepared for!
The fossil fuel-dependent global economy prospered during the industrialization era has mandated humanity to rethink about its environmentally mutilating framework just after the decades of its development. Recognizing the gravity of the context, we need to do major changes in our present economic structure in the least amount of time and with least disturbance to the community dependent on it. Nonetheless, to say, technological support is important to materialize this change. Electricity, being one of the largest sources of energy for end-users, needed special attention during this transition. This has opened new research areas within science and technology to invent pro-environmental solutions to the problems arising from existing anti-environmental anthropogenic activities. The invention of a solar cell, wind turbines, development of geothermal heating and cooling systems, biomass storage-handling and combustion systems, etc. by the virtue of basic technology research are the results of scientists’ efforts to tackle the above-mentioned issues. While some renewable energy technologies were introduced to the world through breakthrough inventions, others were gradually developed over time.
Role of Industry and Global Organizations:
One must not underrate the industry’s risk-taking capabilities to deploy large scale solutions of renewable energy (RE) technologies around the world. Industrialists and businessmen have played a crucial role in taking inventions out of the labs. Globalization has further boosted the overall dispersal of RE technologies through information dissemination and technology transfer. Intergovernmental organizations/bodies, United Nations programmes, think tanks like United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), International Energy Agency (IEA), Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21), Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), etc. have played monumental role in facilitating knowledge exchange and policy support. I believe that the collective efforts of intergovernmental organizations/ programmes/ bodies/ think tanks have succeeded in communicating ‘importance of renewables’ to the majority of people in the world. They have successfully overcame the preliminary barrier of enlightening masses about the sacrosanct nature of renewable energy sources.
Employment for Sustainability:
The ever increasing energy demand in developing and underdeveloped countries as a result of their citizens improved lifestyle due to globalization and rapid industrialization has resulted in rapid installation of renewable energy-based projects in such countries. Many of those countries are leapfrogging in electricity access due to technological advancements in distributed generation and considerable price reductions in the cost of renewable energy technologies. Simultaneously, over the years, most of the developed countries have strategically changed their choice of primary energy sources from non-renewables to renewables. Their transition is still under process. This whole development has opened new domains of studies in the field of energy policy research. Today, the challenge is not to deploy more RE projects but to take care of their sustainability. Considering this, one of the important dimension that I, as a young policy professional can think of is ‘employment’!
In addition, to promote the widespread adoption of renewables around the world, intergovernmental organizations need to give special attention to attract youth towards renewable energy and fulfill youngsters’ demands from it. We need to acknowledge that youngsters’ expectations from renewable technology are increasing day by day as they are being enlightened about it. The curious minds and talented brains are adding value to the renewables through their technological innovations. International organizations shall encourage such genius minds to ensure that future generations actively pursue their organization’s vision of the green planet. The local level innovations shall be promoted and channelized to convert their ideas into business stories. This will not only increase the penetration of RE technologies in deepest nerves of society but also strengthen the renewable industry.
Going a step ahead, new employment opportunities in renewable energy should be explored to engage the young generation in the field. For example, in the case of solar photovoltaic, e-vehicles and energy storage systems can be fostered, considering them as driving forces of the photovoltaic industry. This will ensure that renewables become part of 21st centuries society and confirm their long-term adoption by the public. We need to consider the following while contemplating the employment element;
- Creating new RE-based employment opportunities for novice labor (skilled/semi-skilled/unskilled)
- Supporting skill development programs for all novice labor (skilled and semi-skilled)
- Developing and supporting special RE-based skill development programme for experienced labor (especially for those who are already working in the non-RE sector)
This new approach of focusing on employment aspect will not only engross the next generation in RE and but also accelerate the transition to a sustainable energy future.
Once we provide enough employment opportunities in RE-based industries through necessary policy interventions and recommendations, it will eventually invalidate the argument often used by climate change denials regarding the livelihood of existing labor, dependent on fossil fuel-based economy. The solution may not be as easier as it seems on paper, but we certainly need to think about it at least once.
In addition to above, we need to explore and build new avenues in interdisciplinary research areas to assure that current RE-based projects sustain themselves in technologically, economically, environmentally and socially changing circumstances because now is the right time to expand the reach of renewables and make the technology eternal in its true sense!!