Mrs. Amurdavallee Ramasawmy, Central Electricity Board System Planning Engineer, discussing with two technicians at Henrietta Solar PV Farm. Photo@UNDP Stephane Bellerose

 

Many jobs will be lost as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the ILO, approximately 13 million jobs are projected to be at risk with the slowdown in economic activity and the disruption of key markets. In Mauritius, the international number of tourists is expected to fall by 60 to 80% in 2020, putting many jobs at risk; and many small auxiliary businesses in the tourism sector will have little choice but to decrease or cease their activities. The tourism sector, which is considered as a key pillar for the Mauritian economy, contributed 8% of GDP in 2017 and employs ~30,000 persons, 40% of whom are women.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also impacted the energy sector globally. The forced shutdown of many economies worldwide has resulted in decreased energy demand and a decline in oil prices. Although the full repercussions on the energy sector are yet to be determined, the opportunity to have the global economic recovery powered by renewable energy should not be missed.

It is well known that there is a strong correlation between growth in electricity use and gross domestic product (GDP).  Energy intensity is also positively associated with other economic statistics such as employment. While Mauritius is heavily dependent on fossil fuels to power its economy, with imported fossil fuel supplying ~80% of primary energy requirements; the current uncertainties have made the need to diversify the energy mix of the island only more evident. There is now a convergence between a climate change mitigation and adaptation rationale for renewable energy use with an economic incentive to absorb future economic shocks.

Women attending an event linked with a Green Climate Fund project. Photo@UNDP Shakil Beedassy

 

Opportunities for Women in the Renewable Energy Sector

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, some 11 million persons globally are employed in the renewable energy sector.  This number is projected to reach 42 million by 2050.  In Mauritius, the energy sector employs about 2,000 people (0.4% of total employment), with women representing a mere 5% of this workforce. 

In this context, the Mauritius 2020-2021 National Budget Speech has made provisions to boost the economy by going back to investments in the traditional sectors through the introduction of agricultural self-sufficiency schemes, promotion of local manufacturing, innovative sectors, and tourism-based activities. Most notably, however, the budget speech also laid emphasis on enhancing economic resilience with the increased use of renewable energy with the objective of reaching 40% of renewables in the energy mix by 2030.

New Skills for New Labour

The development of the renewable energy sector will require increased labour, some of which can be sourced from the economic sectors adversely impacted by the COVID pandemic. Investing in the Renewable Energy Sector can provide not only the much-needed impetus towards achieving the Paris Agreement objectives, but also boost the economy by providing new job opportunities for those who have been laid off in other sectors.  

Women, who are underrepresented in the renewable energy sector and are also faced with job losses in the tourism sector, should be the focus of reskilling for the new labour opportunities presented by investments in the sector.

Phase I of the UNDP-supported, Green Climate Fund (GCF) ‘Accelerating the transformational shift to a low-carbon economy’ project provides training to women on the installation, operation and maintenance of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems; and to better understand the technical aspects of PV systems. Beginning in 2021, Phase II of the GCF project will include the deployment of ~25 MW of rooftop-mounted solar PV panels over five years. Through an integrated development solution, UNDP aims to support increased employment for women, while supporting the objective of the Government of Mauritius to achieve 40% in renewable energy by 2030. This transition will not only support sustainable livelihoods but also contribute to the socioeconomic recovery of Mauritius.

 

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