Women as Key Players in the Decentralised Renewable Energy Sector: Beneficiaries, Leaders, Innovators
The ongoing energy transition entails widespread social and economic opportunities. Accompanied by a range of enabling policies, the shift towards a sustainable, distributed, and low-carbon energy system is producing a plethora of advantages, including employment opportunities. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, renewable energy created in 2021 over 12.7 million jobs, including those in the decentralised renewable energy (DRE) solutions (IRENA and ILO, 2022). The numbers are expected to grow substantially in coming years and decades, exceeding the jobs lost in fossil fuels.
While women constitute approximately a third of the total workforce in the renewable energy industry, they appear to have a higher representation in the solar PV sector, with a 40% share (IRENA, 2022). This is also the case in decentralized renewable energy (DRE), where solar technologies are prominently deployed. There is growing knowledge about the situation in certain countries, such as Ethiopia, where women account for 37% of the DRE workforce (Power For All, 2022).
The role of women in DRE solutions is multi-faceted and can include a range of activities such as installation, maintenance, and management of renewable energy systems, as well as entrepreneurship and leadership positions in the field. DRE solutions have the potential to empower women by providing them with access to clean and reliable energy for their homes and communities, which can lead to improved health and livelihoods. Moreover, women can also benefit from income-generating opportunities through the establishment of small businesses related to decentralized renewable energy.
While women play a vital role in DRE solutions and their involvement and empowerment in this sector can bring numerous benefits to both individuals and communities, women's involvement is still often limited by gender-specific barriers such as lack of access to finance, limited knowledge and skills, and cultural attitudes that restrict their participation in certain areas. It is crucial to address these barriers to increase women's involvement in DRE solutions and to ensure that the benefits of clean energy reach all members of society.
The event aimed to increased awareness of the role of women in decentralized renewable energy and explored ways to increase their involvement in the industry. This year, the United Nations’ theme for International Women's Day on 8 March (IWD 2023) was “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”. To complement this focus, the event considered ways to tailor technological innovation in support of broadening women’s access to renewable energy.