Renewable energy tipped to create 58,000 new jobs

Solar power. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Renewable energy sector will employ about 58,000 workers next year as more producers connect to the grid following the saturation of the off-grid market.

Payers in the sector have called on renewable energy companies to increase training for their workforce to address skill gaps due to growing demand for installation technicians and maintenance professionals needed to handle mini-grids.

Kenyan renewable energy workforce is dominated by semi-skilled and unskilled workers at a time the future of the Decentralized Renewable Energy (DRE) jobs are expected to be increasingly skilled.

“There is a shortage of trained and licensed practitioners, and the few that are there are occupied most of the time,” said Kenya Renewable Energy Association chief executive Andrew Amadi.

Kenya, just like most African countries, is lagging in the development of appropriate training programs to adequately equip their renewable energy workforces. The biggest challenge has been lack of resources, especially financial, and a shortage of qualified trainers.

Mini-grids in Kenya were first developed by the Government in the 1980s to supply its administrative centres that were far from the main grid in locations such as Lodwar, Mandera and Marsabit.

The initial mini-grids were mostly powered by diesel generators. Currently, public mini-grids are developed by Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Corporation (REREC) and operated by Kenya Power with several private players entering the space.

“More countries are likely to become interested in the assembly and manufacturing of DRE technologies, which will require sophisticated design and engineering skills,” read the report titled Powering Jobs Census 2022: The Energy Access Workforce.

The survey focusing on five countries—Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda— established that the sector has created 374,000 jobs in the four African countries and 80,000 in India.

“The public and private sectors need to prioritize training and inclusion if we are going to realize the sector’s significant potential,” said Suranjana Ghosh, Global Director of Partnerships and Campaigns.

The survey showed DRE directly employed 50,000 in Kenya in 2021, which greatly outnumber those of the utility-scale power sector –based on estimated employment of no more than 8,000 workers in Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC).

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 survey of 2019, their numbers are still low—on par with participation rates in the broader economies.

Women roles, the study established, are primarily in administration and less in other fields such as sales, technical and leadership positions.

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Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.