Widespread conversion to solar LED lighting in developing countries would create 2 million new jobs, study says

July 21, 2016

July 20th, 2016 by  

A new report from Berkeley Lab has shown that a widespread conversion to solar-LED lighting in developing countries could create 2 million new jobs.

Many homes throughout the developing world still rely on dirty fuels to provide simple things like indoor and outdoor lighting. Fuel-based lighting such as candles, firewood, and kerosene lanterns are the norm for millions of people, creating unfavorable living and health conditions. The shift toward solar-LED lighting is in progress, but it is slow. According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), the tremendous environmental and health benefits of switching to solar-LED lighting are supplemented by economic development.

Berkeley-3Specifically, the study carried out by Berkeley Lab, Job creation and energy savings through a transition to modern off-grid lighting, found that the transition to solar-LED lighting has the potential to create 2 million new jobs in developing countries.

“People like to talk about making jobs with solar energy, but it’s rare that the flip side of the question is asked—how many people will lose jobs who are selling the fuels that solar will replace?” said study author and Berkeley Lab researcher, Evan Mills. “We set out to quantify the net job creation. The good news is, we found that we will see many more jobs created than we lose.”

The reliance upon dirty fuels for lighting stems from a complete lack of access to electricity — approximately 274 million households worldwide. Mills’ study, however, focused on the “poorest of the poor” — about 112 million households, primarily in Africa and Asia, that cannot afford even a mini solar home system, which can power a fan, a few lights, a phone charger, and a small TV. Mills’ 112 million household sample instead can only afford a simple, entry-level solar lighting system.

According to Mills’ research, there are currently approximately 150,000 fuel-based lighting jobs. A survey of major solar-LED lighting companies revealed that 38 new jobs for replacement lighting technologies are created for each 10,000 people living off-grid who would benefit from solar-LED lighting. Therefore, with this metric in mind, the number of jobs already created for the current uptake of solar-LED lighting has already matched the number of jobs for fuel-based lighting, and heralds the possible rise of new job creation to 2 million to serve the 112 million households in Mills’ study.

Furthermore, Mills found that the quality of these new jobs compared to the fuel-based lighting jobs would be much improved.

“With fuel-based lighting, a lot of these people are involved in the black market and smuggling kerosene over international borders, and child labor is often involved in selling the fuel,” he said. “Also these can be very unstable jobs due to acute shortages of kerosene and government subsidies going up and down. It’s a very poor quality of livelihood, and the commodity itself is toxic. These new solar jobs will be much better jobs—they’re legal, healthy, and more stable and regular.”

Further information regarding Mills’ study can be found at Berkeley Lab.