Power for All, the global campaign to end energy poverty, recently released its second Decentralized Renewable Energy (DRE) jobs report, leading experts to stress the need for training investment to build the skilled workforce required to grow and scale the sector.
The full global research report, Powering Jobs Census 2022: The Energy Access Workforce, makes a powerful case for the expansion of DRE to fight energy poverty and rural unemployment in developing economies. Findings of the report will be the focus of an industry leaders panel at the Sankalp Global Summit 2022.
Currently, 733 million people do not have access to power, and over 3.5 billion do not have access to reliable power, a majority of whom live in rural areas in Africa. Scaling DRE solutions, such as rooftop solar and mini-grids, is now widely acknowledged as a critical driver of rural electrification and achieving universal energy access (SDG 7). It is also a major engine for creating good jobs, decent work, and economic growth (SDG 8) for millions of people around the world.
According to the report—made possible through the generous support of The Rockefeller Foundation, Good Energies Foundation, and GET.invest—the DRE sector has remained resilient throughout the pandemic. Focusing on five countries—Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda—data reveals that the sector has created 374,000 jobs in the four African countries and 80,000 in India. Pico-solar and stand-alone solar home systems (SHS) companies accounted for the largest share of employment in the African countries. The report goes on to predict the sector can create up to half a million jobs by 2030.
“With DRE recovering from the impact of the pandemic faster than the broader economy its promise is clear, however significant challenges remain,” said Suranjana Ghosh, Global Director of Partnerships and Campaigns, Power for All. “First and foremost the public and private sectors need to prioritize training and inclusion if we are going to realize the sector’s significant potential.”
As DRE becomes more established the skills requirements are evolving, reflected in the increase in skilled workers compared to the first census in 2019. India, with its more mature DRE sector, has the highest percent of skilled workers at 71 percent, compared to the comparatively new sector in Ethiopia with 25 percent. A growing skilled labor force will be required to continue the sector’s growth and realize its considerable benefits. However, only half of the DRE companies surveyed offered staff training, with many citing a lack of financial resources.
The report looked at the role of women in the DRE workforce, as a means to building the required skills faster and addressing entrenched gender bias. While the participation of women has improved slightly from the 2019 census, their numbers are still low—on par with participation rates in the broader economies. Furthermore, their roles are primarily in administration and less in other fields such as sales, technical and leadership positions. The research shows that the DRE sector has an opportunity to be an agent of change by actively encouraging women into the workforce and offering training for technical and leadership positions.