Turn Off Auto Drive; We Need Humans to Achieve a Just Energy Transition
The energy transition is ultimately a human transition. Why do we pioneer technological, financial, and policy innovations? For people. Who drives these innovations? People. To truly achieve a just energy transition, we must ensure an inclusive human-centered approach that recognizes that people are at the forefront of trailblazing and refining solutions and experiencing impacts.
Energy leaders within diverse communities around the globe are taking this human-centered approach — but not all are equally equipped to innovate and tailor energy solutions to maximize impact. As a result, practitioners across the globe must be equipped with the right set of tools to ensure a successful energy transition. The outcome is an energy future that moves away from traditional top-down, technically oriented solutions and toward incorporating the often-overlooked components of workforce development, the cornerstone of a community-led, human-centric approach to a just energy transition locally and globally.
That is why RMI established the Energy Transition Academy (ETA). The ETA is a global training and workforce development platform for energy leaders to access curated information, resources, and coaching networks. The ETA is designed to respond to the challenges faced by decision makers and practitioners working in the Global South by providing them with a peer community, skills, experience, and shared tools to advance projects, programs, and policies. Most importantly, learning experiences are tailored to help their local communities address concrete climate challenges and seize clean energy opportunities.
Reimagining the Workforce
The ETA recognizes that we must reimagine our energy workforce for a successful clean energy transition. This approach will spur equitable access to new jobs and energy systems better tailored and responsive to unique nation’s energy needs. Our offerings build upon eight years of successful RMI collaborations with countries across the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia, and are informed by our discussions with more than 100 energy leaders in over 40 countries in these key regions. The offerings emanate from requests RMI received directly from energy practitioners. We currently support partners across sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and Islands regions.
The ETA also recognizes the climate divide is an energy leadership divide: regions feeling the adverse effects of climate change often have the least resources to respond. Further, despite their low contributions to greenhouse gas emissions, these regions are already experiencing a myriad of negative health, economic, environmental, and safety impacts from climate change. Ultimately, practitioners in these regions are often marginalized from the international climate community, hence the need for peer networks, communities of practice, and leadership opportunities.
During COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, we organized various side events to learn about and elevate conversations centered on energy leadership and what a human-centric transition looks like. The ETA believes that the climate divide is also a leadership divide and that harnessing workforce development and peer community to empower energy leaders is a critical driver that will advance our shared climate goals. Our event “Achieving Our Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through a Human-Centric Energy Transition” confirmed that we need energy leaders that are supported and listened to as part of the global climate conversation.
As Leroy A.E. Abraham, General Manager/CEO of the British Virgin Islands Utility Corporation shared, “we can’t automate this [energy transition], it needs to be focused on humans. Humans need to progress this at the end of the day. The human element in the transition cannot be removed, it needs to begin there.”
Minigrid Training in the Caribbean and Beyond
From the insights gained from speaking with energy practitioners around the world, we’re pleased to announce the launch of the Global Fellowship Program. Our inaugural offering supports utility professionals based in the Caribbean, focusing on building climate and economic resilience through solar-plus-battery storage microgrids. The fellowship program includes a three-month online learning and engagement experience followed by a nine-month Energy Transition Residency working with RMI on local clean energy projects. The Fellowship Program will profile the leadership roles of fellows and their contributions to the energy transition, sharing lessons learned, best practices, and insights from their experiences to build a community of practice. Later this year, the Global Fellowship Program will offer expanded offerings for energy practitioners in sub-Saharan Africa, the Pacific Islands, and other areas of the Caribbean.
Skills development is a crucial aspect of this program. Lack of skilled workers risks creating bottlenecks in the roll-out of clean technology. The Africa Minigrids Program (AMP), a new UNDP-led Africa-wide program funded by the Global Environment Facility, and in partnership with the African Development Bank and RMI, aims to fill this gap by developing local capacity and technical expertise to ensure continued renewable energy penetration beyond the life of the minigrids projects. The AMP will support an initial 18 African countries in developing the enabling environments to increase the commercial viability of renewable energy minigrids and scale up investments in decentralized renewable energy solutions in Africa.
In collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), ETA will provide knowledge and develop solutions to common challenges within the African minigrid sector, providing support to ministries, government agencies, and electric utilities.
Supporting Leaders on the Front Lines
As the world navigates to a climate-safe energy system centered on renewables and energy efficiency, the energy transition has revealed the need to expand skills in all regions of the world to create a capable renewable energy workforce. Meeting that need will require more vocational training, stronger curricula, and greater training of trainers. The ETA is ready to support energy leaders on the front lines of the climate crisis and is committed to bridging the leadership divide so that we can accelerate and achieve a just energy transition. If you are interested in collaborating with RMI’s Energy Transition Academy, email us at ETA@rmi.org.