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Creating the Needed Jobs for the Off-Grid Sector?

Creating the Needed Jobs for the Off-Grid Sector?

By 2023, it is expected that up to 10,000 mini-grids would have been installed in Nigeria, generating 405 MW of power and bringing electricity to hundreds of thousands of people for the first time, predominantly in rural communities. It is also expected that by 2030, at least 9000 MW will be generated from renewable energy as part of the Vision 30:30:30 of the Federal Government which aims to generate 30% of 30GW by 2030.

To actualize this, there are numerous donor programs that are giving grants to catalyse the sector, as well as the Rural Electrification Fund of the Rural Electrification Agency which has received a loan from the World Bank and the African Development Bank to the tune of $350 million and $150 million respectively to be given as grants to mini-grids and solar home systems developers. Not only that, there is a rise in equity funding to renewable energy companies to finance their expansions in order to meet the huge demand for power. It is evident that the sector is about to experience explosive growth.

However, a critical question is yet to be answered: where will the thousands of skilled workers to install, maintain and operate these systems come from? This is very important because without skilled manpower, the growth of the sector will not be sustained and its resilience will not be achieved.

This is the driving motivation behind the launch of a new campaign by Power for All, called Powering Jobs on the 18th of July, 2019. This campaign was launched in Nigeria, India and Kenya which are all experiencing rapid growth in the deployment of decentralized renewable solutions as the fastest, most cost-effective means to achieve universal electrification.

The campaign is aimed at catalysing policy action on developing human capital for the DRE sector as it grows, and it will incorporate a multi-stakeholder approach across numerous sectors such as gender and youth, agriculture, education and health. This is because the growth of the sector also creates impact across other sectors, and it is necessary to ensure that job opportunities for women and youth are available in the sector in order to meet the Sustainable Development Goal 8, which is Decent Work and Livelihoods.

In order to better understand the correct state of jobs in the DRE sector and where the demand for job skills will be, Power for All conducted a jobs census across 50 companies in Nigeria. The census results show that even though DRE solutions have only captured a small percentage of the demand, it already has created about 27,000 jobs – 4,000 direct jobs and 23,000 indirect jobs.

So far, the bulk of these jobs are in the pico-solar, solar home systems segments and small off-grid appliances segment, where companies that sell directly to end-user consumers exist. However, our census survey has predicted that due to the expected rise in the number of mini-grids, the bulk of the 52,000 direct jobs will come from mini-grids by 2023 while 14,500 informal jobs will come from pico-solar and solar home systems by same year.

The growth of the Decentralized Renewable Energy sectors across these countries will require the development of skilled technical manpower who will build, install, maintain and operate these solutions. But not only that, an estimated 27 percent of the jobs skills that will be in demand by 2023 will be non-technical skilled workers in roles such as management and business administration. Considering that the demand for these skills puts the sector in competition with other sectors, there is need for deliberate action by training institutions and DRE companies to develop and attract workforce with these skills.

The potential of job creation from decentralized renewables to impact other sectors such as agriculture, health and education through the deployment of productive-use systems such as solar water pumps and solar dryers necessitates the need for the Powering Jobs campaign to work with stakeholders from other sectors.

There is also a need to mainstream gender and youth considerations into the campaign in order to create opportunities for everyone within the sector as it undergoes rapid growth: as at present, only 27% of jobs in the DRE sector are taken up by women, with the bulk of the jobs coming from end-user companies where women take up to half of the direct, formal jobs and taking another 44% of the informal jobs, often as sales agents.

However, as the growth in jobs will come from the mini-grids where project developers, installers and mini-grid operators currently employ very few women, there is the risk that the percentage of women in the entire will shrink unless there is deliberate action taken on women’s empowerment and education regarding the technical and management skills needed to install, maintain and operate mini-grids.

As the Powering Jobs campaign rolls out, it will create a synergy between the various efforts of government agencies, private companies, tertiary educational institutions and training institutes that focus on the power sector to begin to take a unified approach to creating the much-needed human capital for the sector to grow.

Doing so will also fulfil the Regulations on National Content Development for the Power Sector approved by the Nigerian Electrical Regulatory Commission in 2014 which seeks to ensure the development of local capacity – job and work opportunities – across all levels of the power supply value chain in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI) – generation, transmission and distribution. This ranges from basic labour positions such as construction and procurement positions, to management and administrative positions.

Without this development of competent manpower to build, grow and sustain the industry, the gains of the anticipated increase in the adoption of decentralized renewables to provide access to energy will be eroded.

*Mark Amaza is the Lead – Strategic Communications at Power for All – Nigeria

**Ifeoma Malo is the Country Director, Power for All – Nigeria.