The world is preoccupied today! We are too engrossed thinking about the minute details of our lives, trying to make everything better, and more convenient. However, in the process, we seem to have missed how parts of our social structure are falling apart. The population is rising more than ever (expected to reach 7.5 billion in 2017), and our social structure is failing to substantiate a promising life for the growing community. Unemployment has become a mammoth issue. In 2016, 197.7 million people globally, 38.6 million people in developed countries, and 143.4 million people in emerging countries were unemployed. And in 2017, the unemployment rate is expected to rise (5.7 to 5.8 per cent) by another 3.4 million. A grave economic situation, which is ballooning with no real solution in view!
At the same time, another point to ponder on is that in such circumstances, we continue to be more and more dependent on a soon to be depleted energy source. We are spending billions in fossil fuel but ironically, it is still falling short to provide energy for all. Another global predicament to contend with!
When we bring these two issues together, we may realise that energy and economy are interrelated components, heavily influenced by one another. And conventional energy sources being limited, countries cannot depend on them to build and maintain a progressive economy. Fossil fuel importers stand to suffer from spending their country’s precious financial reserves on fossil fuels, while exporters will see huge gaps in their currently ‘well-oiled economy’ once their reserves start to deplete. So, there will be no winning side of the coin here, if we stay dependent on fossil fuels.
However, the dilemma can be solved by adding renewable energy in the mix.
Current growth in renewable energy (especially solar) and increasing global acceptance (US, China, and Japan leading the change) does prove the legitimacy of solar/renewable energy sources. However, the million-dollar question is, apart from its role in providing clean energy and safeguarding the environment, can renewable energy bring new jobs and economic transformation, portraying a better future for the world.
The question posed above can only be answered by the actualities surfacing throughout the countries that have taken the step towards renewable energy development:
- In US, solar energy is creating 13.7 jobs per million dollars spent, surpassing fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) as it creates 12.1 jobs per million spent.
- Solar industry has created 416,000 jobs in India in 2015 and 1,017,800 jobs are expected be created within 2022.
- Brazil has hopes of creating 60,000 to 90,000 new jobs by the year 2018.
- European Union is expecting to create +1.25 million economy-wide renewable energy jobs by 2030, reducing 40% greenhouse gas emissions.
- Mexico is expecting to create +134,000 jobs in renewable energy sector by 2030.
- United Kingdom can create +70,000 net employment in renewable energy by 2030.
- Renewable energy is expecting to create 24 million jobs by 2030 globally.
The opportunity to re-structure economy and create jobs is so tangible with renewable energy ventures, that developing countries are betting huge on it, shifting from conventional energy. A closer look at developing countries highlight, that rising cost of conventional energy (due to their limited reserves) has made it impossible for developing countries to initiate any kind of progress (since energy is the life force of development). Countries like Bangladesh and Mongolia have shown the way out to developing countries by adopting small scale (and low cost) solar power to light up homes. And now, countries are eager to invest in renewable energy. In 2016, $286 billion was spent on renewable energy, surpassing fossil fuel’s $130 billion investment. And within that $286 billion, near about $131.56 billion was invested by developing countries like- India, Brazil, China.
Switching On Economic Reform
Increasing share of renewables in global energy industry can increase the global GDP from 0.6 per cent to 1.1 per cent by 2030, which will roughly translate into USD 700 billion to USD 1.3 trillion. This clearly indicates that a better infrastructure will be up and running, trying to offer a better lifestyle to the growing world population. Judging from the changes that will surface with increased renewable energy usage in sectors like health, education, environment, and economy, global welfare is expected to rise by almost 2.7 per cent. Shift towards green energy, will create new markets for trading. Moreover, it will impact the fossil fuel market, reducing its global investment, and saving billions of dollars for countries, which can be thrust back into development oriented initiatives (infrastructural and social, eventually leading to economic reform).
The Present Picture
Fortunately, countries have taken initiatives to avoid such calamity by adopting and investing in renewables. For example, we can highlight Saudi Arabia’s (one of the largest fossil fuel exporters) efforts (investing $30 billion and $50 billion to reach 3,450 MW renewable energy target by 2020) towards renewable energy. India is also making great strides to change its carbon footprint. The country is quickly enhancing its green energy capacity standing at over 9 GW capacity in solar, from being the fourth largest consumer and importer of petroleum & crude oil in 2015.
As the PV manufacturing reaches scale, the shift from fossil fuel to green energy will be easy for countries. And self-interested energy users would select solar to gain energy security, while contributing to the economic reform that promises a better and bright future for all.
Worldo meters: http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/
Carbon price modelling: http://carbonpricemodelling.treasury.gov.au/content/overview/page13.asp