Jobs, Jobs and More Jobs

Renewable energy development creates jobs. Recent figures from the International Renewable Energy Agency shows that. The growing investments on RE in recent years are resulting in more work for many nations.

The report, Renewable Energy and Jobs Annual Review 2017 showed that in 2016, the RE sector provided jobs to as many as 9.8 million individuals. This amount was higher by 1.1% posted in 2015. Leading the pack is solar photovoltaic, employing some 3.1 million people, a number that is up by 12 percent from 2015. Wind energy also saw a jump in the number of people it employed, providing jobs to some 1.2 million people.  The report stressed that wind and solar PV have been consistent in providing more jobs in recent years as work from these two subsectors have more than doubled since 2012.

As government’s in Asian countries take notice of the potential of RE, Asia accounted for the largest contribution to job generation in the sector, accounting for 62% of the total globally. Growth in RE jobs in this continent has been significant with its 12% increase from 2013 to 2016.

Asia has been on the rise with its new installed capacity accounting for 46% of the global growth in 2016 from a mere 40% in 2013. Thanks to China, which the study noted as one of the top countries in producing the most number of jobs along with Brazil, the United States, India, Japan, and Germany. Given China’s pivot to cleaner energy, it now provided some 44% of the total RE jobs worldwide last year. China has been employing more people as it only posted 41% in 2013.

Traditional sources of energy, on the other hand, is suffering a different fate.  Several developments such as growing use of automation in extraction, overcapacity as well as the shift to greener forms of energy of nations are causing the decline of jobs in the sector. Jobs generation from this sector has been declining all over the world for decades.

Developments in China alone are hurting traditional power industry, particularly, coal. China, the producer of almost half of the world’s coal, have already closed 5,600 mines due to the slowdown of its economy and excess supply. It is predicted that some 1.3 million coal mining work will be reduced in the country. Similarly, the world’s largest coal producer, Coal India has already decreased the number of jobs by 36% as the number of its employees are down to 326,000 in 2015-2016 from 511,000 workers in 2002-2003.

Similarly, coal-mining in Germany only employs roughly 30,000 jobs, which is a mere tenth of what it used to hire 30 years ago. The US coal mining work, too have dwindled to 55,000 jobs from 174,000 three decades ago.

And we can expect more of this trend in the coming years. Russia, for one, has recently announced its largest-ever purchase of renewable energy as it aims to award contracts to buy 1.9 gigawatts of clean energy in a bid to attract more jobs through foreign investments.

Director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency Andan Amin has noted that this move “can significantly contribute to the country’s economic objectives such as economic growth and employment.”

RussiaRussia now joins other power nations that are seeking to invest more in renewables. Just a few months ago, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC’s top producing country, Saudi Arabia announced that it will invest some $30 to $50 billion in renewables starting with the construction of wind and solar power plants.

As I have been saying, there are many benefits of investing in renewables. And job generation is one of them. As some of the world’s most advanced countries shift to greener forms of energy, with the exception of US, (which is a different story, by the way), we can only expect more jobs and a better (and cleaner) future, hopefully for all.

 

References:

Renewable Energy and Jobs Annual Review 2017

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-05-29/russia-starts-largest-renewable-energy-auction-in-bid-for-jobs

Ignoring the Numbers

Just recently, United States President, Donald Trump signed an executive order, which mainly seeks to overturn his predecessor, Barrack Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

To recall, then President Obama announced the Clean Power Plan in August 2015 in response to the growing clamor to address climate change. The Plan’s primary objective is to reduce carbon pollution from power plants. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) subsequently issued the Carbon Pollution Standards, the first U.S. national standard on pollution.

Trump’s EO will trigger the review of the US Clean Power Plan and carbon standards for new coal plants. News reports, however, note, that it is unclear if the US will keep its commitment to made in COP 21 agreement to keep the world’s average temperature below two centigrade above pre-industrial levels.

Reports also quoted Trump as saying that his order is about “ending the theft of prosperity” as the signing of the EO will “start a new era of production and job creation,” particularly in the coal and mining sector.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that the new US President is ignoring the actions and calls of the global community to work double time to mitigate the effects of climate change. After all, he has promised to bring coal mining jobs back while dismissing climate change as “a hoax created by the Chinese” during his presidential bid.

More details are yet to be released on the full impact of this new executive order. But as early as now, environmental activists are already criticizing Trump for going backward on the progress already made by the US in fighting climate change. The U.S, once considered as the leading country in the world’s quest for a cleaner and greener world is now seemingly going backward.

I also join the many others who question Trump’s move in signing such an E.O. as Trump seemed to have ignored that cleaner forms of energy, do generate jobs. Many jobs in fact.

Weeks before Trump signed his controversial order, the US Department of Energy (DOE) released a report showing the contribution of the renewable energy (DOE) sector in jobs creation in the country.

The US, Energy and Employment Report revealed that solar power employs the most workers in the US Electric Power generation industry with wind energy is the third biggest. Solar alone provided work for 43 percent of the sector’s employees with 374,000 individuals from 2015 to 2016. In contrast, traditional fossil fuels all together just hired 22 percent of the workforce at 187, 117 for the same period. Coal’s job figures have been on the decline for the past decade the report stressed.

And renewables’ contribution to the additional employment in the power sector is not to be ignored either. The Energy Sector’s contribution to the overall job generation is significant as it accounts for some additional 300,000 jobs, which is 14 percent of the US job growth in 2016.

Plus, RE’s job growth is significant as it increased by 25 percent, creating a total of 73,000 new jobs last year.  Wind power employment alone grew by 32 percent.

The growth of the renewables has been significant in the past decade as more energy are generated from these sources the report stressed: “The electric generation mix in the United States is changing, driven by the transition of coal-fired power plants to natural gas and the increase in low-carbon sources of energy.”

The study pointed out that generation from coal sources has dropped by 53 percent from 2006 to September 2016 while solar power alone has increased by 5000 percent in the same period.

And with the stellar growth of cleaner energy, jobs are still created.

“These shifts in electric generation source are mirrored in the sector’s changing employment profile, as the share of natural gas, solar, and wind workers increases, while coal mining and other related employment is declining.”

china-solar-energy

Solar alone provided work for 43 percent of the sector’s employees with 374,000 from 2015-2016.  Photo c/o http://www.zmescience.com

Trump stressed during the signing of the report that the main thrust of the EO was to protect American jobs. But apparently, the above numbers released by the U.S. DOE shows that adding cleaner forms of energy in the mix does not necessarily translate into the loss of jobs. Renewable power generation also requires manpower.

The US DOE study isn’t the only one that talks about job generation in the RE sector. Earlier studies have already established that increasing investments in renewables will generate employment.

Research by the University of California, Berkeley has shown that “photovoltaic technology produces more jobs per unit of electricity than any other energy source. Most of the jobs are in construction and installation of solar facilities and can’t be outsourced to other countries.”

Similarly, the report of the University of Massachusetts, “The Economic Benefits of Investing in Clean Energy in the US” stressed that a total of $150 billion of investments in clean energy would produce some 2.5 new million jobs.

Inevitably, these numbers point to one thing: Clean energy generates jobs. Choosing cleaner forms of energy does not come at the expense of the workers. On the contrary, more employment opportunities are available as we grow the RE sector.

Industry experts are bewildered on how Trump will deliver his promise of bringing more jobs to the coal industry.  Jason Bordoff, founding director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, says that it is impossible to bring back coal jobs. “There isn’t a lot of investment activity because in some cases it looks more economically attractive for firms to invest in cleaner technologies.”

Additionally, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis or IEEFA, in its 2017 U.S. Coal Outlook stressed that job losses would continue for coal industry as companies will continue to use fewer workers in the future: Promises to create more coal jobs will not be kept — indeed the industry will continue to cut payrolls.”

Plus, the IEEFA sees that natural gas will soon replace coal, which makes it almost impossible to for Trump to achieve his goal: “Trump’s false promise that he can bring back coal is really exposed as so much coal dust and mirrors by this executive order, since utilities will continue to use natural gas instead of coal.”

Sadly, the US President didn’t look at these numbers nor listened to industry experts.

References:

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/03/27/politics/trump-climate-change-executive-order/

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-solar-power-employs-more-people-more-oil-coal-gas-combined-donald-trump-green-energy-fossil-fuels-a7541971.html

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-energy-idUSKBN16Z1L6

https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2017/01/f34/2017%20US%20Energy%20and%20Jobs%20Report_0.pdf

https://www.epa.gov/cleanpowerplan/fact-sheet-overview-clean-power-plan

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-coal-mining-jobs-promise-experts-disagree-executive-order-a7656486.html

Green is Gold: How renewable energy can save us money and generate jobs”. Greenpeace

Note: UCLA Berkeley & University of Massachusetts studies are cited from the Greenpeace report.

 

 

Harnessing the Sun to Empower Farmers

Agriculture is the single sector that employs the most number of individuals. According to the United Nations, 40% of the world’s population rely on agriculture for their livelihood. Unfortunately, the world’s poorest are from the sector.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) says that increasing the productivity of the sector is one of the most effective means to combat poverty. The UNEP noted that a 10 percent growth in farm production reduces poverty by five percent is Asia and seven percent in Africa. And one of the measures to improve production is to ensure proper irrigation. This was the focus of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in its report “Solar pumping for irrigation: Improving livelihoods and sustainability, stressing the benefits of solar pumps for irrigation.”

The report noted that food is produced mostly on rainfed lands and the majority of farmed land in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa are reliant on seasonal rains to meet water needs since only 20% are irrigated agriculture. Agrarian economies developed irrigation particularly groundwater structures (wells and tube wells) to boost agricultural productivity. Unfortunately, this has increased water consumption and electricity consumption. In India, for example, irrigation comprises 18% of electricity consumption and five percent of diesel consumption. And globally, energy use of electric irrigation pumps is roughly 62 terawatt-hours per annum, which is equal to Singapore’s annual power consumption in 2014.

The report stressed that there are consequences on depending heavily on electric power pumps. There is the impact on public spending given that electricity or fuels for irrigation are often subsidized by governments, which also results in the inability of utilities and distribution firms to recover their full costs. This hampers the utility companies to fund new power projects. On the other hand, utility businesses that are unconcerned on cost recovery have little incentives to address the inefficiency of water and energy consumption practices in the sector. Plus, there is also the impact on the environment. Naturally, high energy consumption for pumping contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. For example, in India, fuel groundwater pumping accounts for eight to 12 percent of the country’s greenhouse emission. Likewise, in China, energy consumption for irrigation equals roughly 45 metric tons of C02 or equivalent 50 to 70 percent of all the energy activities of its agricultural sector.

Given the above consequences of relying heavily on energy for pumping, it would then be beneficial to harness the sun’s power for irrigation purposes.  The report emphasized that solar power can provide cost-effective, reliable and environmentally-friendly irrigation services. Harnessing the sun’s power to irrigate farmland can substantially help increase farmer’s productivity and incomes, as well as help government’s reduce public expenditure on fossil fuel subsidies. The report highlighted examples to prove that such outcomes are possible.

domrep-solarpanel

photo c/o irenanewsorg

In Little Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, India where 70 percent of India’s salt are produced, most of the salt farmers use inefficient diesel-powered water pumps in the salt harvesting. Farmers’ income are reduced given that they spend 40 percent of their annual revenues to buy diesel for their next harvest season.  Two pilot projects were carried out in the area to replace diesel-powered pumps with solar-powered pumps. The projects showed that annual savings of farmers increased by $1,277 or 161% compared to farmers who were using diesel-powered ones.

Likewise, in Zimbabwe, the Ruti Dam Irrigation Scheme of Oxfam, added solar pumps to irrigate more lands and solar rooftop panels to provide cold storage and solar charging. Such actions resulted in an increase of household incomes by 287% for the very poor and a 47 percent income increase even for middle-income families.

Solar irrigation pumping could pave the way for lessening CO2 emissions, too. In the case of Little Rann, estimates showed that reduction of 115,000 tons of CO2 is possible when diesel water pumps are replaced with solar or hybrid solar or diesel pumps in the area. Similarly, research by the World Wild Fund showed that the deployment of 5 million solar pumps could save 10 billion liters of diesel or 23 billion kWh of power. Also, in Bangladesh, studies showed a reduction of one million tons of emissions yearly or 450 million liters of diesel with the installation of 50,000 solar irrigation pumps.

I, for one, is a believer of solar pumps. In fact, almost a decade ago, we implemented a solar pumping project in Butong, Ronda, Cebu. We installed the Aquameter system that employs a controller that can covert 2,700 watts of photovoltaic power and solar-powered tap stands where consumers simply need to draw water using their rechargeable pre-paid cards.  Water is sourced from an underground river where a well was drilled. Unfortunately, the project didn’t last long as the community became less cooperative with the project.

gaad2

Solar water pump of the Aquameter system

So, it is good news that the DA is now considering solar pumps again. Last August, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol announced that the department is installing five prototypes of solar powered irrigation pumps in different areas. The prototypes are US-assembled where the design allows drawing of water from underground or catchment basins. The government expects that installation of such can provide potable water supply, generate excess power for isolated areas as well as provide other sources of livelihood.

It is my hope that this project becomes successful especially since our farmers, just like in other parts of the world, remain the poorest. Surely, we can help our countrymen get out of poverty if we put to good use technology along with our natural resources. Giving solar-powered pumps a chance is a step in the right direction.

References:

http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Economy&title=solar-powered-pumps-readied-for-installation-to-boost-crop-yields&id=132706

International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA): Solar pumping for irrigation: Improving livelihoods and sustainability, stressing the benefits of solar pumps for irrigation

It’s About Time

President Rodrigo Duterte made strong pronouncements after attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation in Peru, promising to open up our utilities to more competition.

In his speech delivered in New Zealand, the president said “The only way to make this country move faster to benefit the poor is really to open up the communications, the airwaves and the entire energy sector. My decision now is to open the Philippine economy to other players.”

He further added that the government is “now also looking into regulatory requirements and institutional arrangements to hasten the entry of new players in the power industry and energy sector.”

This is good news for us, not only for energy players like myself but the rest of the country. I have long been advocating for the opening up of the sector to more players, including foreign ones. I have always been vocal in my desire to lift the 40 percent restriction on foreign ownership to address the energy needs of our country for several reasons.

For one, the building of power plants, particularly renewable energy plants is capital intensive, and there are very few local businessmen who can cough up the needed money to explore and build RE plants. The government no longer spends for the exploration of renewable energy and has left the task to the private sector. Unfortunately, exploration is not a cheap undertaking.

Take the case of geothermal energy where drilling of a single hole can cost $5 million, and that doesn’t include expenses incurred for the feasibility studies before drilling.

What we need are foreign investors who can shell out the money and provide the technologies needed to harness the energy from renewable sources because local businessmen do not have them. What we can do is to limit the foreign ownership of the renewable sources, but welcome more foreign investors to own equipment needed to convert our resources.

There’s another reason why the energy sector is ripe for more foreign ownership. The International Energy Agency or IEA has reported that roughly $165 trillion funds are ready for renewable and efficiency efforts from the years 2020 to 2030 after the government heads last year signed the agreement to reduce and limit carbon emissions to help save the environment.  This means the Philippines can take a share of that pie if we open ourselves to more foreign owners. We are, after all, a natural choice to receive these funds given the country’s abundance of natural resources.

The Philippines has been one of the fastest growing economy in the region and the Duterte administration is determined to keep our economic growth momentum that will be felt by the Filipinos. But the government can only accomplish such by building infrastructure to support our economic growth including power plants for stable and affordable energy supply.

Hopefully, the president can achieve his goals by having a cooperative Congress that will push for the needed changes in the Constitution. This necessary change is long overdue.

Reference:

http://business.inquirer.net/220139/digong-opens-3-sectors-foreign-investors

 

Unquantifiable Returns

Corporate Social Responsibility or even sometimes referred as corporate citizenship is defined by Investopodia as a firm’s “initiatives to assess and take responsibility for the company’s effects on environmental and social wellbeing.”

My own definition of CSR, however, is slightly different. I see CSR as a means to provide more opportunities for families. This means working harder to encourage and support opportunities for education, entrepreneurship, and preservation of our natural resources. More so, when more than 25 percent of Filipinos live below the poverty line. In fact, the Philippines has the second highest poverty incidence in the Southeast Asia Region, next to Myanmar, according to the Asian Development Bank.

And it is the thought of helping others through my own endeavors is what, as cliché as it may sound, keeps me pushing harder for success in my business ventures. It was the same when I was with NAPOCOR and facing all the hardship of giving light (literally) to Filipinos. It was the thought that there are plenty who would benefit from the power projects we were putting together.

It is no different now that I am involved in renewable energy development. Our team in EPI reaches out to communities to understand how we can work together. As we build power plants, we are aware that we can make a difference in other people’s lives: we create value by providing them with employment and education.

EPI employs close to 400 individuals with our power plant projects. And on top of generating employment, we are also able to send both children and adults who wish to complete their education after quitting due to poverty.

One example is a 47-year-old Mangyan who recently graduated high school through our sponsored Alternative Learning System Program in Najuan. She, along with other 25 students graduated secondary education through our ALS.   At present, we have some 120 students in the programs who range 17 to 48 years of age.

It is important for us entrepreneurs and other members of the society to find ways to help our fellowmen go to school given that as of 2013, four out of every 10 Filipinos or four million youths are out of school. The Functional Literacy, Education and Mass Media Survey noted that roughly 19.2 percent of the survey participants said that their families could not afford to send the school expenses as the primary reason for quitting their education.

It has always pained me to see our fellow Filipino go abroad to find employment and have their children grow up without their parents’ care and for children to drop out of school to help their poor families. What’s even worse is when these workers end up taking care of other’s children while their own are being nurtured by others.  Our team takes pride that we can help keep families together through our own entrepreneurial initiatives.

Sure, bottom line figures are important for any businessman. But there are other created value through business undertakings that are equally important. Jobs generation that allows our head of families to provide a good future for their children without flying elsewhere and the opportunity to send individuals back to school after being denied of education in their early years top the list.