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Energy saving and the economy
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 29 - 10 - 2013

A workshop on saving energy, while helping to save the environment and create employment opportunities, was recently held at the German Science Centre (DWZ) in Cairo, at which Kurt Wiesegart, the convener, reported the findings of an EU-funded project on the employment effects of energy efficient economies and challenges for the MENA region. According to Wiesegart, some 58 per cent of energy produced is currently being lost, even as energy efficiency (EE) is sometimes seen as “not being sexy”.
This was a result of a limited knowledge of EE and the lack of technical standards in Egypt, Wiesegart said, who continued his presentation by setting out an optimistic vision of the relationship between the increase in the government's commitment to EE, energy price reform, improved institutional frameworks and a hoped-for decrease in the unemployment rate, which has now reached 21 per cent in the MENA region for those aged between 20 and 24.
Wiesegart outlined selected EE policies in the EU that had developed considerably over the last 20 years, including the bloc's Energy Efficiency Directive (2012), Energy Performance in Buildings Directive (2002), Ecodesign Directive (2005), and Energy Labeling Directive (1994). Wiesegart insisted that such mandatory policy measures actually created jobs, with mandatory building codes helping to create jobs in manufacturing, construction and auditing, for example.
“If EE policy measures are implemented, then different employment levels will be raised to high standards,” he said, adding that investment in solar water heating, as a renewable and energy efficient technology, could also help create jobs and save energy. According to Wiesegart, over the next 20 years or so we can all expect to see an increase in job creation as a result of the adoption of EE measures.
The workshop was being held within the framework of the Cairo Climate Talks, which are a series of events meant to provide a platform to exchange experiences, raise awareness and foster cooperation between policy-makers, the business and scientific communities and civil society.
They have been organised and hosted in cooperation between the German embassy in Cairo, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs (EEAA), the German Science Centre (DWZ), the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the Egyptian-German High-Level Joint Committee for Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency and Environmental Protection (JCEE).
The skills needed for EE products, services and markets in general and those needed in Egypt in particular were main questions at the event's first round-table discussion. Arnulf Knorr of the German-Arab Chamber of Commerce gave a presentation on the skills needed for EE products, services and markets and outlined a value-chain approach that would help to produce well-qualified personnel and process experts. According to studies, EE and renewable energy (RE) development in Egypt could produce very considerable savings, but at present skills and qualifications were lacking among Egyptian workers, leading to sub-standard products and processes.
The answer, Knorr said, was better quality-control, and he gave the example of steps taken to develop EE manufacturing in Tunisia. In the latter country, he said, 20 companies had succeeded in establishing themselves since 1992, and a way had been found to finance the development of solar energy. “Installation and maintenance outside the factories are the main sources of employment in the future,” Knorr said, concluding his presentation by telling the Egyptians present not to “burn your subsidies but to invest in knowledge”.
Morton Koscev of the German Technical Cooperation Employment Promotion Programme (GIZ EPP) highlighted the potential that green jobs could have for the employment prospects of young people. Some 90 per cent of unemployed young people had qualifications, he said, and such skills were needed for the EE market where there was a need to persuade people to consume less energy. Young people with technical skills were needed by the EE market, and in order for these skills to become sought after young people should receive special training that would make them more attractive in the job market and help them to start their own businesses.
Koscev concluded his presentation by saying that improving skills could also lead to the creation of the local technology needed for EE and RE development and to changing mindsets towards greater environment awareness.
Adam Molyneux-Berry of IceCairo, an eco-hub for environmentalists and entrepreneurs, the facilitator of the round-table, then directed the discussion to how the use of renewable energy could be made to spread among consumers and governments in the region. Knorr said that the main challenges here were to persuade people to install the needed products and to convince people to consume less by offering them the technology that can help them to pay less for their energy needs.
The idea of a “chain of confidence” was raised, which means that consumers should have confidence in the products they use and in their benefits to them. They should have the confidence of finding the same services at cheaper prices, Koscev saying that the market, when properly managed, could raise employment needs for people making quality products. “The private sector can go out and act,” he said.
Wiesegart added that raising awareness and training were part of a complex system in which government commitment was crucial. “There should be mandatory policies and codes,” since if not advances made by the private sector “will be useless”. When properly regulated, the industrial sector of the economy would be able to make important savings by using energy efficiently, he said. Kawther Lihidheb, a Tunisian participant, said that consumers should be able to find products that use less energy, create jobs and are adapted to their needs. Wiesegart said that in his view “proper standards for good-quality products will phase out bad-quality products from the market.”
While some of the participants insisted on the importance of governments taking steps to regulate the market, others, such as Hany Al-Ghazaly of the Association of Energy Efficiency Engineers (AEEE), said that the standards and maintenance systems for the products should be laid down, with people then deciding on their individual needs. The participants suggested that the private sector had an important role to play in the generalisation of renewable energy and energy efficient products.
For Koscev, while the relevant forms of education were available, the region as a whole lacked expertise. He stressed the importance of subsidising energy efficiency and the need for cooperation between the private and the public sector in developing a market for renewable energy. Energy savings would come about as a result of a combination of “willingness, ability, and credibility”, he said. Wiesegart concluded the discussion by stressing the importance of the framework drawn up by the governments of the region and the private sector in applying it.
Reforms and incentives was the title of the second round-table, the main question being how governments in the MENA region could create more jobs through renewable energy and energy efficiency. Sami Marrouki, the first speaker, described government initiatives for creating employment in Tunisia in a presentation based on a study commissioned by GIZ on behalf of the Tunisian National Agency for Energy Conservation (ANME).
Gross employment as a result of EE and RE, Marrouki said, was the sum of all direct and indirect employment yielded by the production, operation and maintenance of EE and RE technologies. According to the data, Germany was in the top rank of European countries in creating more than 300,000 RE-related jobs in 2010, with studies showing that more than 80 per cent of these were skilled jobs.
In Tunisia, he said, studies had shown that the main objectives of the country's national sustainable energy strategy should be to reduce the country's dependence on fossil fuels by managing demand and diversifying supply through alternative resources such as renewable energy. Objectives included the improvement of the security of supply by reducing energy dependency, with present estimates putting this at 10 per cent and rising. There was also a need to improve the competitiveness of the economy and of economic operators by reducing their energy bills, he said.
Marrouki said that in Tunisia the energy employment ratio was potentially very high, meaning that RE could be a significant source of employment for the country. Employment in EE was also potentially high, though there were also costs involved in energy saving. Marrouki concluded by saying that RE and EE could have a positive effect on employment and economic development, but that compared to EE, RE was in general more intensive in terms of the employment of manpower, though there were also the high associated costs of energy saving.
In the short and medium terms, employment should be considered as a co-benefit and not as a key criteria for RE or EE prioritisation. In the long term, the criteria of employment and industrial development could be justified as a motive for public investments in the fields of RE with high added value, he said. The sustainability of the RE and EE market was necessary for the stability of the jobs created and for the transformation of short-term jobs to permanent ones. Above all, he said, according to the Tunisian study the improvement of employment in RE and EE was a result of the financial means available, vocational training, R&D, and industrial policy.
In his presentation, Al-Ghazaly of the AEEE said that “a green world exists in a green economy,” though he added that there were still many technical and managerial barriers to energy efficiency. Over the last 30 years, different governments in Egypt had taken the wrong decisions at the wrong times in raising awareness of the problems. Main barriers to the usage of EE and RE in Egypt included the absence of national standards for energy consumption, the absence of properly trained technicians, the high cost of finance, instability in the exchange rates, and legal barriers making it a complex and slow process to resolve legal disputes.
At the end of his presentation, Al-Ghazaly raised the important issue of the “hundreds of thousands” of new jobs that could be created in the field of EE if the relevant international standard, ISO-50001, was implemented. “Go out of the box,” he said. Teach students about energy efficiency and they will spread the word among their families and friends. There was no need to enforce such policies through legal sanctions, he said.
The last speaker was Christine Hofmann from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), who spoke about sustainable development, decent work and green jobs. She introduced her presentation by describing what she called the two defining challenges of the 21st century: achieving environmental sustainability and decent work for all. These things were intimately linked, she said, adding that the transition to greener jobs would need to be just and well managed.
An environmentally sustainable economy could lead to a +0.5-2 per cent gain in employment, in other words to millions of additional jobs. Such gains could be higher in emerging economies and developing countries than in industrialised ones, and the protection of existing jobs could be achieved through the greening of companies.
In the energy sector, Hofmann said that an ILO study completed in 2012 had concluded that the shift to a low-carbon energy supply would have important net positive effects on employment and help to address energy poverty in rural communities. It had found that growth in the renewable energy industry has supplemented jobs in the fossil-fuel sector, not replaced them, and that job losses in the fossil-fuel industry had mainly been due to rising mechanisation and labour productivity. Renewable energy jobs were also of better quality than in the fossil-fuel industry, if deployment was gradual, it found.
At the end of her presentation, Hofmann shed light on the ILO findings in Egypt regarding the skills for green jobs. There was a lack of coordination, an absence of an institutional mechanism to link skills and environmental policies, and an absence of systematic data collection on skills for green jobs, she said.
“Skills forecasting mechanisms do not systematically analyse skills for green jobs, organisations dealing with the environment are well aware of skills requirements but the formal education and training system has not mainstreamed environmental concerns and related skills, missing incentives, and there is a lack of relevant energy subsidies, for example for green building,” she said.
“There is a way out for improving the skills for green jobs in Egypt,” Hofmann concluded by saying, however. At the end of the discussion, one of the participants stressed the importance of people being made more aware of the urgency of the situation. There was an absolute need that people should feel the danger coming if they did not find alternatives forms of energy, he said.


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