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Transition to Renewable energy can positively contribute to employment generation in the country

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Energy transition in Bangladesh will positively contribute to employment generation in the country. The planned energy transition, according to the Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan (MCPP) and Draft Integrated Power and Energy Master Plan (IEPMP), is likely to contribute to a substantial rise in renewable energy use in the power sector — from as low as 80 per cent to as high as 1240 per cent of renewable energy use could happen by 2030. The use of fossil fuels in the power sector would decline between 27.8 per cent and 30 per cent during the same period. Such an energy transition within seven years is likely to impact employment generation in renewable energy-based power generation positively. CPD study shows that the renewable energy sector could generate about 9300–28626 new employment, mainly through on-grid-based electricity generation.

On the other hand, new employment in fossil fuel-based power generation would be either negative (-387) to positive (8614). However, a substantial part of the new employment in the power sector could be absorbed by reemploying the occupants of the fossil fuel-based power plants. These findings have been shared by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) at the dialogue titled ‘Energy Transition in Bangladesh: Employment and Skills’ held on Thursday, 19 October 2023, in Dhaka.

In his keynote presentation, Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem, Research Director, CPD said that the scarcity of trained engineers has resulted in a significant demand for individuals with engineering expertise. The demand for skilled technicians is moderate, yet it is easier to locate trained technicians than skilled engineers. The energy shift to renewables has the potential to give rise to several novel career vocations, including renewable energy technicians, energy storage specialists, smart grid engineers, energy analysts, environmental planners and consultants, energy efficiency experts, green building designers and architects.

On the other hand, specific occupational positions are frequently present in power plants reliant on fossil fuels, which may not be necessary or may possess diminished importance in renewable power plants. These include fuel handling and storage personnel, ash disposal and pollution control specialists, boiler operators and combustion engineers, flue gas desulfurisation (FGD) technicians, coal yard workers, conveyor operators, and oil and gas refinery workers.

Considering the overall transformation in the energy and employment sectors, nine-point recommendations have been made in the study. These include —  (a) Investment in workforce development; (b) Formulating pragmatic policies; (c) Replicating globally successful measures; (d) Redesigning academic courses; (e) Promoting industry-academia collaboration; (f) Supporting local manufacturing; (g) Creating green jobs reporting mechanisms; (h) Developing transition plans for fossil fuel workers; (i) Conducting more research on emerging issues and concerns.

Ms Fahmida Akhter, NDC, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of Bangladesh, positively acknowledged the report’s findings regarding the net positive employment effects of the energy transition. She briefly mentioned the recent measures and initiatives the Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE) took, including initiating the Department of Employment in MoLE, and the Unemployment Insurance Scheme in Bangladesh. She recommended that the reporting of ‘green jobs’ should be taken into account when awarding green certification to factories in the sector.

Mr Mohammad Alauddin, Rector Bangladesh Power Management Institute, strongly argued that a proper business model should be developed to attract private investment in the renewable energy sector. Besides, the availability of competent energy service companies in transmission and distribution is necessary to ease the setting up process of solar-based Photovoltaics (PVs).

Mr Humayun Rashid, President, International Business Forum of Bangladesh (IBFB), emphasised on the development of skilled professionals working in the extra high voltage transmission and distribution, operation, maintenance, and occupational health and safety. He further emphasised the local manufacturing of different renewable technology components with warranty supports.

Professor Dr Ijaz Hossain, Formerly with Department of Chemical Engineering, BUET, opined that expanding renewable energy-based power generation in Bangladesh will be challenging without correcting the overexpansion of fossil fuel-based power generation. He added that no technical educational institute, including the engineering institutes of Bangladesh, has exclusive courses or subjects on renewable energy. He recommended introducing subjects and courses related to the renewable energy in the curriculum so that the students can be trained in the technical aspects of renewable energy.

While focusing on the technological aspects of renewable energy, Professor Khosru Md. Selim, Professor of Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Independent University, shed light on the employment potentials of solar PVs in Bangladesh. He mentioned that if solar can be decentralised at a micro level, it can generate millions of jobs. He advised treating the energy sector like the IT sector and developing skilled human resources by tuning the curriculum with the skills necessary for this sector.