REGIONAL company Soleco Energy Limited is spearheading the campaign to increase women's inclusion in the renewable energy industry.
In an effort to bridge the gender gap in the sector, Soleco recently held a free three-day solar photovoltaic (PV) training seminar for 19 women in Kingston.
The Women in Solar training seminar included key concepts of electricity and safety practices, key components of solar PV systems and assembly of support structures, and technical skills for the installation and wiring of PV panels. The seminar culminated at the Paradise Park Solar Farm in Westmoreland, which is the largest in Jamaica and the English-speaking Caribbean.
It was led by Lauren Peters, managing director of Nuance Security and Solar Systems Ltd, who is affectionately dubbed as the 'First Lady of Solar' in the regional business community. Nuance Solar is based in Trinidad and Tobago and specialises in renewable energy alternatives and is a regional provider of various solar PV equipment.
Peters, who described the seminar as a life experience, said, "I want [the participants] to be able to retain the information on testing solar systems, installing them and even understanding the difference of the solar panels that are out there.
"I've always dreamed about providing training for women, especially in the trade. Renewable energy is the future and we have to invest in ourselves… There are limited opportunities specifically designed for women and especially in the trade industry," she continued.
Iyani Tennant, who resides in Westmoreland but travelled to Kingston for the seminar, shared similar sentiments.
"I know people who are doing solar training, so when I saw the link on Facebook I applied, but I wasn't really thinking that I would have been accepted. [The sector] has been piquing my interest for a few years now and, being a person who is more invested in agriculture, I think this is the perfect opportunity to merge agriculture and solar energy or renewable energy," she explained.
"When I got the opportunity to do this, I was so elated… Right now, I feel so accomplished! Even though I'm not where I want to be, I aspire to be one of the women in solar," she enthused, adding that she will now seek a job within the local sector.
According to Angella Rainford, founder of Soleco, the company aims to level the playing field for women and inspire them to work in the renewable energy space in Jamaica.
"These seminars are absolutely critical… We're super-proud to be doing this but this is only a small step and a lot more can be done throughout the country. So whether it's seminars for children — and even just the general community so that they are familiar with what renewables are, what the solar panels look like and what they do, wind technology and all different forms of renewables," she explained.
Solar PV has emerged to be the leading employer in the renewable energy sector, both in global number of employees and in gender balance. However, women remain underrepresented in scientific, technical and engineering disciplines despite growing demand.
According to an International Renewable Energy Agency report, in 2021, the Solar PV industry employed 4.3 million people — one-third of all renewable energy jobs worldwide — but women accounted for 40 per cent of this number.
"As for the next steps, it depends on what the ladies want to explore. It could be anything from furthering their education, or finding a role or a job in the industry where they can put it into practice, or just taking the elements and putting it even into their home life, thinking about sustainability and how we include renewables in your day to day…That's our core objective," Rainford continued.
Upon completion, each participant was given a certificate for the introductory programme. The initiative was also supported by IDB Invest and Deetken Impact. Rainford and Peters are amongst a handful of women who are leading the charge regionally by calling for urgent change as it relates to the use of sustainable energy by governments, businesses and communities, as well as gender equity within the industry.