Bangladesh is known for its apparel manufacturing industry—and for the conditions faced by garment workers toiling in Dickensian factories for a dollar a day. But according to a report released Sunday, the South Asian nation has become a top hot spot for renewable energy jobs, creating a green workforce as large as Spain’s in 2013.
How? Solar energy.
Bangladeshi’s are installing small photovoltaic systems at a rate of 80,000 a month, says the report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). In a country where only 47 percent of the population had access to electricity in 2009, according to the Asian Development Bank, solar is increasingly becoming a way to leapfrog the need to build a bigger power grid.
In the past 10 years, the number of solar systems in Bangladesh has jumped from 25,000 to 2.8 million, according to IRENA. That in turn has created some 114,000 jobs, from assembling solar panels to selling, installing and maintaining them. In fact, the number of solar-related jobs nearly doubled between 2011 and 2013. “The numbers are set to increase further,” wrote the report’s authors. (By comparison some 4 million people work in Bangladesh’s garment industry.)
Solar energy accounted for 2.3 million of the world’s 6.5 million renewable energy-related jobs in 2013, according to the report. About 70 percent of those solar positions were in China, the biggest green-job generator with 2.6 million people employed in renewable energy overall.