Energy transition and youth employment in Spain and Greece

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Anemos Ananeosis / Wind of Renewal participated in drafting of the study

Youth unemployment, especially in southern European countries, remains unbearably high. Renewable energy and climate protection are an opportunity to create new, well-paid jobs in urban and rural areas, Dr Hartwig Berger explains.

The energy transition could result in hundreds of thousands of jobs, especially for young people (Photo by Radostina Primova)

Spain and Greece were hit hard by this summer’s droughts and wildfires – the Mediterranean regions are highly endangered by the climate crisis, and energy change there is urgent. At the same time, the opportunities for a climate-friendly transformation of the energy systems are very promising. The conditions there are excellent for the use of sun and often ideal for the exploitation of wind. There is a considerable scope for efficient and economical energy use too.

It therefore essential to train young people in qualifications and skills that are required for this vast economic transformation so that Europe can become a global leader in green energy and fulfil its Paris commitments. They can be offered a promising professional future instead of being marginalized from work.

At the beginning of 2018, a team from three countries conducted research in the Spanish province of Cádiz and in Athens. Their goal was to find out what opportunities there were for a climate-friendly energy change in the coming years and the additional demand for qualified work resulting from it. Next, they examined how the energy transition is viewed by stakeholders, local politicians and affected young people themselves and whether local communities are willing to participate in appropriate initiatives. Finally, the team developed a set of proposals on how such professional training should be designed in order to increase the prospects of subsequent employment.

The project was financed by the EU Climate Initiative (EUKI) of the German Federal Ministry for Environment.

Potential for renewables

The key results of the research are that the energy transition could result in hundreds of thousands of jobs, especially for young people. In addition, the Mediterranean’s sunny climate makes distributed solar energy a profitable option.

Transitioning to renewable energy and climate protection offer considerable employment potential. We expect a six-figure number of new jobs in Spain and almost a six-figure number in Greece for energy-efficient building refurbishment alone. In the various renewable energy tasks, we estimate the number of new jobs in both countries to be in the five-digit range. In the municipalities surveyed, the energy balance of the buildings is generally so unfavourable that the applicable national and European regulations virtually force refurbishments.

From an economic point of view, the prosuming (production and consumption) of solar electricity required by households, businesses and public institutions themselves in the investigated regions is also very attractive. In Greece, the legal framework is favourable. In Spain, fundamental improvements can be expected in the near future. Even for low-income households and businesses, solar power generation is economically viable, provided that there are favourable microcredits, state subsidies and offers for a so-called “energy contracting”.

At present, young people in the regions who are trained in energy management have clear difficulties to find jobs in their field. Their chances improve significantly if vocational training is closely linked to practical learning in companies or communal activities. But close attention must be payed to prevent misuse of apprenticeships by companies.

Policy proposals: local and regional training

The team came up with the following proposals to improve youth unemployment and switch to clean energy:

–    Municipal action plans at both local and regional level. Action days should be organized in towns to present possible or existing projects and to inform citizens and local businesses about national and regional energy plans, as well as the possibilities for funding activities related to energy and climate protection. For renovations and energy efficiency projects, the study recommends building cooperatives or neighbourhood associations.

–   Programs for targeted “dual” qualification of young unemployed people and energy refurbishments in municipal buildings. The energy-saving provisions for buildings should include natural techniques and the use of renewable energy sources on site. In autumn 2018, a test project was launched in small towns near Cádiz and in Athens for schools in these regions, which are notoriously hot in summer and cold in winter.

–    Programs for “round-up” training of young people. It is crucial that these programs begin now because in the coming years, a large number of experts will be in demand for the use of solar energy. Training should include planning, installation, monitoring, economic efficiency calculations for solar systems, plus energy-saving measures.

–     Professional training programs in climate protection activities for youth in rural areas. Young people without jobs and training have the greatest difficulties in finding a job in the regions studied. Therefore, providing professional training in the sectors of agriculture, forests and green urban environment will be important.

–    The existing “European Youth Guarantee” should be extended to finance training in occupations in which a high demand for skilled workers can be expected in the future. This is undoubtedly the case in the areas of energy transition and climate protection.

The detailed study “How to Reduce Youth Unemployment by Fighting Climate Change” is available at

Dr. Hartwig Berger (Berlin), was before his retirement a private lecturer for sociology at the FU Berlin and at times deputy in Berlin and chairman of the Ökowerk Berlin.

 *”energy contracting” is a bold technical term. It refers to contracts in which a company typically invests at its own expense in energy-saving measures or energy installations and then “recovers” its own costs by means of the savings achieved, etc.

 “Wind of Renewal” in COOP Spotlight

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Wind of Renewal is a social cooperative in Greece founded in 2014 with ten people.

Article | 09 December 2016–en/index.htm?shared_from=shr-tls

COOP Spotlight is a series that showcases innovative cooperative initiatives from around the world with whom ILO COOP is engaging for exchange of learning and future collaboration. The fourth cooperative featured in the series is the Wind of Renewal, a social cooperative in Greece.

What does the Wind of Renewal stand for?

The Wind of Renewal (WoR) was founded in 2014 with ten people. The cooperative is working to advance a number of social and economic objectives, including integration of refugees into host communities and promotion of sustainable and green social enterprises.

To advance these goals, the WoR has been collaborating with local government, EU institutions, cooperative movement, other civil society organizations (CSOs) as well as universities and researchers on wide range of projects and activities. Some of the recent activities of WoR include awareness raising on energy cooperatives, workshops on migration and social enterprises, research on green local policies, and drafting a code of conduct for social enterprises, among many others.

What is the “Welcommon” initiative about?

In September 2016, the WoR launched “Welcommon”, a pilot project that provides housing to refugees and supports their social integration into host communities. #Welcommon’s refugee housing facility is located in Exarhia, Athens. It is operated within the framework of cooperative and social enterprise management scheme of the ANEMOS ANANEOSIS/WIND OF RENEWAL and the Athens Development and Destination Management Agency (EATA).

#Welcommon accommodates up to 200 people with separate rooms designated for families. The project functions under the framework of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) relocation programme for refugees. Beneficiaries are identified by the UNHCR within the framework of its relocation programme, with priority given to vulnerable groups including pregnant women, families with children, and the elderly, among others. Currently the majority of the 160 guests are Syrian children, who are usually accompanied by only one parent.


#Welcommon covers the costs of settlement and all the basic needs of the refugees beside housing facilities. The project organizes training for refugees, and facilitates their active participation and cooperation with the local population. It aims to provide adequate infrastructure and quality services, while applying good practices that ensure the dignity of the refugees.


Welcommon created 29 new direct jobs in 2016 and will create six more in 2017 for Greek citizens. The majority of the previously unemployed employees, have experience on refugee response. In addition, more than 20 volunteers support WoR on daily tasks. The project also supports refugees with facilitating employment opportunities.

How are decisions made within the cooperative?

Each member of WoR has one vote and is welcome to take part in the yearly general assembly, which makes decides on the next year’s activities and gives political directions to the Governing Committee, which consists of three members elected every two years (President, Vice President and Treasurer). The Governing Committee meets at least once a month and decides on strategic and management issues.