The Shift from Fossil Fuels to Clean Energy: a $26 Trillion Opportunity

The main purpose of this blog is to share with our readers stories of how people are making good careers for themselves (or struggling at first, then succeeding) in one of the many aspects of environmental remediation. In this introduction, we aim to set the stage, by sharing with you the general outlook for these types of careers. So this post is an overview of where we stand in 2020 with making the transition to an ecologically sound civilization.

Despite a rapidly growing deployment of renewable energy resources, coal, oil and gas still account for about 80 percent of global energy use and 75 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. So we obviously have a long way to go in this transition. Our fossil fuel-based energy system comes at a massive cost to human health and environmental health, and the transition actually presents opportunities for economic and health benefits to most people. Research done by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate found that bold climate action could deliver at least $26 trillion in economic benefits to countries through 2030. This groundbreaking research, produced  in collaboration with more than 200 experts, shows us how the global shift to a low-carbon economy is changing our economies, and identifies the five main sectors where change is happening: energy, cities, food and land use, water and industry. Organizations are already starting to implement transition strategies, thus creating new jobs in these areas. In this article, we take a look at five ways the shift from fossil fuels to cleaner energy systems is affecting us now.

1. Decreasing fossil fuel subsidies and investments

Subsidies and investments for fossil fuel procurement, refining, and trade have been steadily decreasing.  Also, some businesses, insurance companies, and development finance institutions have started to implement strategies to curb the carbon emissions; thus steering investments away from fossil fuels and towards renewable infrastructure investment. More than 500 companies have committed to support the recommendations of the “Taskforce for Climate-related Financial Disclosures”. These measures will help level the playing field for renewable energy and energy efficiency investments, as well as electric and hydraulic machinery, going forward.

2. Putting a price on carbon

Argentina and South Africa have put carbon taxes in place, and some other countries and US states have instituted emissions trading systems which have a similar effect to a tax.  The results have proven that putting a price on carbon emissions does not slow down economic growth; rather it provides a clear signal and a stable policy for business, industry and consumers to shift course, creating different jobs, not fewer jobs. Stable policies like these attract investment in renewable technologies. Subsidy reform and carbon pricing together could generate an estimated US $2.8 trillion in government revenues per year in 2030—equivalent to the total GDP of India today— much needed funds that can be used to invest in public priorities. This is according to recent analyses by leading economic institutions, including the OECD. As more states get involved, you will see more jobs created around renewable energy and energy efficiency, electric transportation, electric motors for industry, LED lighting, solar refrigeration, solar heating, etc.


3. Increasing investment in energy efficiency

Governments of many states, cities and several countries have recognized that energy efficiency investment generates up to three times the number of jobs as the same investment in fossil fuels. Major investment funds such as the World Bank, several regional Development Banks, and Blackstone Holdings have recently set up special funds targeted at renewable energy and energy efficiency financing. Innovative financing that uses public-private partnerships have demonstrated results across the world. Innovative financing for improved energy efficiency in buildings is already powering economic growth, and we will see various states and countries step up and expand the scope of policies to get investment to flow.

In India, a government-backed company, Energy Efficiency Services Limited, pools procurement to grow markets for high-efficiency lighting and appliances. The arrangement delivers more than 35 billion kilowatt hours in annual energy savings and $2.3 billion in cost savings.

Other programs, such as the Property Assessed Clean Energy Programs (PACE) in the United States and those led by KfW in Germany, provide low-cost financing for energy efficiency investments, with impressive results. Combined, these two initiatives have saved billions of dollars over less than a decade of operation.

By combining energy efficiency with renewables at the building level, it is often possible to eliminate other infrastructure altogether, such as air conditioning and fuel-based heating. This lowers the overall cost and thus increases ROI in a big jump. This provides an easy way to sell these services to building owners and industrial properties!

4. The phasing out coal is finally happening!

Example 1: Italy’s multinational energy company ENEL utility is phasing out their use of coal, while generating employment in affected communities. ENEL’s closure of 23 coal-fired power plants happened in agreement with the sector unions. ENEL guaranteed that there would be no involuntary layoffs, and that the affected coal-related laborers would be redeployed within the company. ENEL also created employment-generating solutions in communities previously serviced by coal, such as installing renewable power or building technology hubs in those locations.
Example 2: China’s ruling CCP has delayed or stopped work on 151 coal power plants, while it has also created a $15 billion fund for retraining, reallocating and early retirement of the estimated 5-6 million people who would be laid off due to coal or steel sector overcapacity.

Of course, closed coal plants require another energy source to replace the demand. So look for these locations as hubs for future jobs in renewable energy!



5. Developing countries are slowly gaining access to electricity and clean cooking

If you are interested in international work, or you live in a developing country, this is an enormous opportunity! By 2030, population growth combined with policy and financial problems are expected to leave nearly 700 million people without power, and more than 2 billion without clean cooking solutions. This provides an enormous potential for companies to deliver economic and human health benefits by creating access to clean energy. Many NGOs are doing precisely this. Solar breakthroughs combined with high-efficiency lighting and appliances are lowering costs of household electricity, while innovative consumer finance is improving affordability and expanding markets for decentralized solutions. According to the International Energy Agency, universal access to clean cooking alone could avoid 1.8 million premature deaths annually by 2030, free up billions of hours spent cooking or collecting fuelwood, and improve livelihoods for hundreds of millions of women.


Economic changes are driving new career opportunities

Renewables accounted for an estimated 11.5 million jobs worldwide in 2019, including half a million new jobs, according to Solar PV accounted for 33% of the world’s renewable energy workforce in 2019. Renewables could support an improved gender balance in the future energy sector. Women currently hold an estimated 32% of the world’s renewable energy jobs. Renewable energy and energy efficiency are the fastest-growing source of jobs in several countries today, including the United States. Implementing the new growth agenda to address climate change and environmental vulnerability is happening in many countries, at both the national and sub-national level. According to the World economic forum, taking ambitious climate action could generate over 65 million new low-carbon jobs by 2030, equivalent to today’s entire workforces of the UK and Egypt combined, as well as avoid over 700,000 premature deaths from air pollution compared with business-as-usual. The employment impact can be separated into three components:

1) Direct effects: employment in industries directly targeted by the investment (e.g., construction);

2) Indirect effects: employment in industries that supply inputs for infrastructure development (e.g., engineering services, materials and transport);

3) Induced effects:employment generated by consumption as the income of firms and households increases.

To build the skills base for the transition from fossil fuels to renewables, many countries have a critical need for more vocational training, stronger curricula, more teacher training and expanded use of information and communications technology for remote learning. That is where AET comes in, to fill this gap!


Solar Thermal Test Rig

The opportunities offered in this new growth agenda are even greater than they seemed four years ago. Technological advances and reduced costs of renewable energy have made sustainable investments ever more attractive, to the point that many are now more cost competitive than traditional fossil fuel-based technologies. Personnel are needed to design, install, repair, commission, sell, and integrate renewable energy systems and energy efficiency upgrades. They are also needed to train farmers, industrial managers, organization boards, and corporate teams how to save energy and transition away from fossil fuels and oil-based environmentally damaging products such as fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, plastics, and clothing.  Alternatives to plastics, paper, synthetic cloth and oil-based pharmaceuticals are ready to be deployed.  And the quest for a permaculture reaches into many areas of our lifestyles.


As we mentioned, there are five key economic aspects involved, namely: Energy, cities, food and land use, water, and industry. This article addressed the details about the ENERGY industry. In future articles, we will address the other four areas. These are the areas where we see the greatest potential for growth, as well as the greatest potential to reduce the risks of harmful climate change. Thus, new careers in the new growth agenda span many different scientific and engineering disciplines, as well as several skilled labor areas. The commonalities are the understanding of systems, and the interactions with the environment that evolve from system designs.

The world is on the cusp of a new era: One that is driven by the interaction between rapid technological change, sustainable infrastructure investment, return to some traditional knowledge and products, and increased resource productivity. This new growth story became mainstream after the ambitious landmark international agreements of 2015 and 2016, those being the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement, each signed by over 190 countries. These agreements aim to deliver strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth, to reduce global poverty and to secure a better and more sustainable future for people and the planet for decades to come.

UN sustainable development goals

The diversification and transition of economies, particularly those that are fossil fuel-rich, is not easy. There are transitional impacts at both the regional and community levels. Even businesses that stand to gain from a phase-out of fossil fuels will benefit from government-led initiatives designed to deliver a just economic transition. New standards for building and appliance energy efficiency, increased public procurement, and retraining funds are being instituted by aware governments, unions, and industry organizations. Education and retraining is the most critical need of these economies in transition. Even workers already employed in jobs related to environmental remediation are faced with many new technologies, and the integration of their jobs with digital intelligence systems and other aspects of infrastructure.

The world now adds more new renewable power capacity annually than new power from all fossil fuels combined. energy is becoming more decentralized as well, since the co-benefits of investing in sustainable infrastructure close by are increasingly evident: cities where we can move, breathe and be productive; resilient power and water systems at lower cost, avoiding the long distance delivery grids with their fire hazards, creating a built environment that can withstand increasingly frequent and severe climate extremes; and helping ecosystems become more productive, robust, and resilient. Discourse has shifted away from the costs of inaction to how we can exploit emerging opportunities in this new energy pathway. This path avoids the now obvious costs of high-carbon development, including remedial measures it requires that become progressively costlier over time. The new climate restoration economy is the new growth story.

Academy for Ecological Transition is dedicated to addressing the whole gamut of eco-remediation careers. We are developing a robust system for educating people in their own homes or workplaces, leveraging new digital technology and our innovative “home-lab kits”. We have a robust physical education department to prepare workers for construction-related jobs. We have a collection of leading professors from various universities and technical colleges who have dedicated themselves to transition education, as well as industry insiders and seasoned professionals who share their stories about the growth trends and how they adjusted to them. You will be impressed at how current our information is and remains: we do robust research to gather the most important innovations that will be most likely incorporated into your future careers! We also partner with companies who will be hiring people, to keep updated on the training needs they have, including a company that is planning to enter the North and South American markets in a big way, and is still in cloaked (confidential) mode.

In summary, the career opportunities are vast, and many of them are already growing almost explosively. While renewable energy and energy efficiency are the examples we focused on here, there are many other careers that will be critically important in the shift away from destroying our earth. There is no planet B, and thus there are many alternative paths to that of self-destruction, which are being forged and cleared for the mass exodus beginning in 2020, now that the consequences of the status quo have become crystal clear!

– Carl Andrews, Academy Managing Director


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