Closing Nigeria’s Power and Green Skills Gaps: A Pathway to Increased Energy Access
Preparing electricity distribution network companies and energy professionals for the green economy will unlock jobs and help achieve universal electrification.
Nigeria, home to over 200 million people, has the largest GDP in Africa and is rich in natural resources. Yet 45 percent of its population do not have access to reliable, affordable, clean energy.
In August 2022, the government launched the national Energy Transition Plan, with set targets that include generating 30,000 MW of electricity from renewable energy sources and reaching carbon neutrality by 2060, much of which can be supported by utility-enabled distributed energy resources. The goal aligns with global climate targets and could create up to 340,000 jobs by 2030 while closing the electricity gap.
In November 2022, Nigeria experienced devasting floods, underscoring the need for urgent action on climate resilience. What is one of the most valuable assets in the fight against climate change impacts? Human capital. We know that we can’t solve climate change if we don’t have the people to do the work, and through our Energy Transition Academy (ETA) we are leveraging this resource while benefiting communities and creating opportunities to improve livelihoods.
Why People Are Central to the Energy Transition
Humans are the engine driving this change, but the workforce gap is slowing down the clean energy transition. Here are some of the facts:
- 14 million jobs are needed by 2030 to meet the global 2050 net zero target.
- 16 million existing workers will need some form of skills training to make the transition.
- 4 million additional energy-related jobs are required in Africa, which can open doors for women, young professionals, and other underrepresented, underserved, and vulnerable groups.
- 600 million people still don’t have access to reliable energy across sub-Saharan Africa.
- 3 billion people don’t have access to clean cooking fuels.
To ensure that no one is left behind, we must apply a holistic, regenerative, community-centric approach. Our recent report, Realizing the Green Jobs Promise, explores this at length, taking into account that two to six “green jobs” will be created for each fossil fuel job lost.
The Global Fellowship Program
Although there is no single solution to addressing the workforce gaps, RMI and our partners seek to support the upskilling of energy practitioners at the local and regional levels to build lasting capacity.
Alongside four of Nigeria’s major DisCos, including the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, Ikeja Electric Plc, Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company, and Eko Electricity Distribution Company; developers such as EM-ONE Energy Solutions and Daystar Power; and vocational training institutions such as the Lagos Energy Academy (LEA); the Energy Transition Academy (ETA) and the Africa Energy Program collaborated to help fill some of the technical skills gaps. Through the Global Fellowship Program, teams designed a demand-driven curriculum to underpin the deployment and scaling of distributed energy resources that could unlock jobs and electricity access.
ETA Fellows with EM-ONE specialists at the Federal Ministry of Housing Works
With a sister program that just concluded in the Caribbean, the initiative’s Nigeria cohort, which launched in December 2022, brought together 20 professionals actively working to advance clean energy projects. The program combines its online learning approach with leadership development opportunities, capstone project development, and site visits. In provides knowledge and know-how for developing and implementing utility-scale solar PV, battery storage, and microgrid projects. The experiential learning component has huge potential to transform lives through reliable energy access where the grid may falter.
From May 24 to 26, fellows will be officially concluding their experience by showcasing what they have learned over the past six months in front of DisCo executives and other stakeholders. This model also supports long-term economic self-sufficiency. Homegrown, in-country expertise is critical to developing an ecosystem that includes local ownership, manufacturing, and overall economic health.
Alleviating Nigeria’s “brain drain” challenge is also directly tied to investing in local talent and leadership. In addition, capital is required for funding curriculum development and training for programs that support professionals, and the challenges of access to financing to enter the sector, notes Adewunmi Bukola Siwoku, head of the Lagos Energy Academy. “We can see that most of our experts are actually migrating from Nigeria to other countries, which we term ‘japa’,” she notes.
Nigeria’s Energy Transition Plan
Earlier this year, members of the leadership team and the Africa Energy Program sat down with H.E Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. The discussion revolved around how RMI’s Africa Energy Program, and ETA specifically, can help the Energy Transition Office achieve its targets around workforce development and powering communities with clean energy. These targets have the potential to create up to 840,000 jobs by 2060.
As such, we plan to develop a roadmap for electric vehicles to set up the necessary charging infrastructure by leveraging Nigeria’s vast experience in deploying two-wheelers in rural minigrids. There was also discussion around capacity building for policymakers and stakeholders to understand carbon markets.
RMI delegation with H.E Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the Energy Transition Office
Minigrids and Innovative Business Models and Approaches
Another plan discussed was displacing diesel consumption by exploring clean energy options through standalone solar, interconnected isolated minigrids, or embedded generation. In the next few months, RMI will support several partners with commissioning two projects, one in Abuja and one in Kano, that will displace thousands of generators, slash emissions and noise pollution, and support over 3,400 businesses and homes.
Minigrids have been increasingly recognized as a means to bridge Africa’s power gap, with a necessary 200,000-plus minigrids by 2030 to reach universal energy access. Nigeria, with support from the Rural Electrification Agency, was the first to roll out the Africa Minigrids Program, a UNDP-led technical assistance program spanning over 21 African countries representing 400 million people, designed to increase the financial viability of minigrids.
As workers develop skills for the green economy, technologies and innovative business solutions should be leveraged simultaneously.
The Rural Electrification Agency and partners at the Africa Minigrids Inception Workshop
Workforce efforts can advance newer more innovative approaches to socializing and expanding the multiple benefits of energy access. For example, the Sharing the Power initiative takes a community-centric approach where residents have a stake in the power source, encouraging inclusive energy governance. The Energizing Agriculture Programme connects partners using renewable energy to electrify productive uses in the agricultural sector — the backbone of many African economies.
Deji Ojo, Associate with the Africa Energy Program with One Acre Fund and Baban Gona at a training workshop testing electric bikes for farm logistics
We Need More Women and Youth as Participants, Entrepreneurs, and Beneficiaries
The energy transition is not only about electricity access and jobs, but equity. Only 32 percent of renewable energy jobs are held by women, who are among the most vulnerable to climate change. Women have a lot more gains to make by assuming more leadership roles, building technical skills, and engaging in mentorship and peer networks such as the Women in Renewable Energy Network. Increased energy access can also economically empower women entrepreneurs, supporting their businesses and fostering livelihoods.
We also know that Africa has a youth unemployment challenge, with youth making up 13.6 percent of the unemployed labor force in Nigeria. Young people's voices are also often unheard in conversations about how to move forward, quickly, even though they are the next generation of leaders, already at the helm of change.
The focus on capacity building and energy access should also be supported by gender- and youth-inclusive policies.
As we edge closer to 2030, the time for radical implementation is now. Funding and partnerships should be leveraged to strengthen capacity and close the project preparation skills gap to equip energy leaders to scale clean energy projects that will attract investment. In doing so, more innovative business models can be explored.
The transition in Africa should focus on energy access, equity, and jobs, and scaling quickly to combat climate change and bolster economic development.
If you would like to collaborate with the Africa Energy Program and Energy Transition Academy, please reach out.