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Clean energy jobs outpacing employment in the fossil fuel sector

Home Infrastructure Energy – Power Generation Clean energy jobs outpacing employment in the fossil fuel sector

THE transition to clean energy is an environmental imperative and an economic juggernaut, now employing more people globally than fossil fuels, according to the 2023 World Energy Employment Report. Clean energy jobs have risen to 35 million, a growth of 4.7 million, while fossil fuel employment has lagged, the remaining 1.3 million jobs below their pre-pandemic levels at 32 million. New jobs in construction and manufacturing now account for over half of all energy employment.

Africa’s abundant solar, wind, and hydroelectric resources present unique opportunities for sustainable development. Project Management Institute’s Job Trends 2024 report suggests that investments in infrastructure and energy will spark demand for project management talent that can deliver next-gen infrastructure on time and within budget.

With a growing trend toward project-based approaches in many industries, a rising demand for skilled project managers is expected to increase significantly over the next decade. However, this demand is contrasted by a shrinking workforce in many countries due to ageing populations and falling birth rates.

“As more countries and corporates in the region commit to lowering emissions, the transition to clean energy is poised to boost employment opportunities significantly. Turning the vision into reality means lots of projects and lots of jobs. There’s abundant potential in Africa, which is home to 60% of the top solar sites globally — yet contains just 1% of solar PV capacity,” says George Asamani, MD, sub-Saharan Africa, PMI.

Several countries are leading the renewable charge in Africa. Senegal, an unlikely renewable energy hotspot, with oil and gas driving its forecasted 8.8% GDP growth in 2024, is aiming to generate as much as 40% clean energy by 2030. Ghana’s US$2 billion Ada Foah project is set to produce 1,000 megawatts of power by capturing tidal wave energy in the Gulf of Guinea. Even oil-rich Nigeria is calling for renewables to meet 60% of the country’s energy demands by 2050. In South Africa, some 66GW of wind and solar projects are at various stages of development, with 18GW at an advanced stage.

Amid the many positive trends emerging for clean energy employment, skilled labour shortages are already plaguing the sector. The sector needs higher-skilled workers than most industries; 36% of energy jobs are within high-skilled occupations by International Labour Organisation definitions, compared with 27% in the broader economy.

“The number of Africans pursuing certifications relevant to project management is not keeping pace with the growing demand. Last year, China certified over 100,000 individuals, North America had 33,000, while Africa only managed 3,000. Meanwhile, the global economy needs 25 million project professionals by 2030. To meet this demand., the biggest coming from sub-Saharan Africa, an estimated 2.3 million individuals must enter project management-oriented employment annually,” adds Asamani.

“Cultivating a certified pool of project professionals should be a strategic priority for the region looking to be energy sufficient. Project management plays a key role in driving development outcomes and is one of the factors that contributes to competitiveness.”

According to the World Energy Outlook Report, by 2030, energy investment will need to double to over US$200 billion per year for Africa to achieve all its energy-related development goals, including universal access to modern energy. About 600 million people lack access to electricity in Africa, with 98% residing in sub‐Saharan Africa.

“Countries must determine what skills they need for the just transition and accordingly build bench strength – these could be in construction, project management, technical, stakeholder management, etc. We are working with several government institutions like the South African Council for the Project and Construction Management Professions, and Bureau Opérationnel de Suivi du Plan Sénégal Émergent to build local project management capacity,” says Asamani.

“As the region shifts away from coal-powered infrastructure and systems, companies must upskill and reskill employees in new areas of expertise. I call on all stakeholders to use this momentum to drive the skills development agenda.”

Large renewable energy projects are complex, capital-intensive, and involve extensive development periods and multiple stakeholders. These projects, whether they employ mature technologies like hydropower, solar, and wind or emerging technologies like green hydrogen, without effective project management, will likely not meet the troika of demands placed on projects – budget, scope, and timelines.

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