The renewable energy sector has potential for employment creation in Zimbabwe if government and civil society organisations make concerted efforts towards its upliftment.
In an interview, Engineer Hilton Chingosho, an energy consultant, said the transition to renewable energy has potential to create new jobs, while at the same time reducing emission levels and providing the energy poor with access to sustainable energy.
“In Zimbabwe renewable energy has demonstrated a job creation effect. For example, in the past few years the drive to create energy through solar photovoltaic cells, a bit of wind or biomass plants (bio fuel ethanol), have seen a higher number of jobs being created in the form of installers, designers, evaluators and downstream employment.
“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 for companies which end up recruiting more,” said Chingosho.
He said those working in the agricultural sector, particularly women and the youth, can benefit from job increases in the harvesting of feedstock and other biomass.
“Employment in renewable energy can mean new opportunities to enter into innovative dialogue arrangements between workers and employers, increasing the quality of jobs when compared to the traditional sectors. This also translates into better and decent jobs.
New energy technologies will demand new skills and if not addressed at the onset, lack of suitable skills can create bottlenecks when introducing technology to drive the adoption of renewable energy, he said.
“Policy makers and social partners have the duty to promote decent work principles within newly created sectors. Financial investment will help drive the shift to alternative energy and job creation,” said Chingosho.
According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), 5, 7 million people globally, were directly or indirectly employed by the renewable energy industry in 2012. This figure grew by 22, 6 % to 6.5 million in 2013 with the largest number of jobs being photovoltaic and liquid biofuels.
According to ILO, employment in renewable energy is not just located in the energy producing sector.
“The value chain in the sector encompasses the manufacture and distribution of renewable equipment, project development, construction and installation work associated with the development of renewable energy capacity. This also includes operation and maintenance of facilities and a range of cross-cutting activities that contribute to more than one of the other value chain stages,” reads part of the report.
A research by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung entitled: Green jobs in the energy sector in Zimbabwe, says large scale renewable energy technologies usually have a lifespan of 20 to 30 years.
“Hence, jobs in the operations and maintenance will always be available and in many instances be permanent,” reads part of the FES research document.