Cultivating the Local Workforce in Guajira, Colombia

Speeches Shim

Without sufficient support from local communities, power projects can face delays, cost overruns, and cancellation if communities do not perceive tangible benefits of the power infrastructure investment.

Renewable energy can increase private investment, economic growth, jobs, and access to clean, reliable, and affordable electricity. With help from the Scaling Up Renewable Energy program, USAID supports the Government of Colombia’s efforts to ensure that the traditionally marginalized groups in Colombia also benefit from renewable energy.

Renewable Energy Auctions Drive the Transition to Renewables in Colombia

Colombia is using renewable energy auctions as a policy tool to reach climate targets, procure growing volumes of renewable energy, and ensure a more resilient energy supply for the country. The majority of awarded wind power projects are located in the Guajira region, which has one of the highest sustained wind speeds in the world. While rich in natural resources, Guajira is also a desert region and one of the most impoverished parts of Colombia. It is home to a large number of nomadic, Indigenous people who live in rural villages, isolated and poorly connected to the rest of the country due to lack of formal infrastructure. According to IRENA, 28 percent of residents lack electricity services, but this number rises to 60 percent in the region’s most rural areas.

Community Outreach and Local Participation

All infrastructure projects, regardless of their energy source, affect the local community where they are sited. Many utility-scale renewable energy projects are located in rural areas with lower population density and higher wind speeds or in deserts with fewer clouds and more sunlight. Communities living close to the project site or the associated grid infrastructure often include marginalized groups who are less likely to be consulted and informed on renewable energy projects or to have their voices heard, which puts them more at risk of losing control over the use of land and resources.

In Guajira, the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) and USAID surveyed renewable energy project awardees to determine the labor needed to bring projects online and catalyze long-lasting economic benefits for the local population. This long-term initiative to develop workforce capacity is starting with a short- and medium-term effort focused on a mix of technical and non-technical cross-cutting job opportunities in the community.

With support from USAID, the regional technological training institute (SENA), the Governor of Guajira, two local universities, and MME are creating a sustainable local workforce training program for Guajira that will meet the needs of both the Indigenous communities and the renewable energy companies that will be working in the province. To determine the training, USAID surveyed renewable energy companies implementing projects in the Guajira region and analyzed potential workforce demand for the next four years.

Workforce Development in 2022 and Beyond

In February 2022, USAID and SENA will begin workforce development training activities that will coincide with the renewable energy developments coming online.

Lessons Learned: Community Engagement and Workforce Development

By fostering local community participation, including local consultation on project permits and development, auctions and other renewable energy deployment mechanisms are effective in supporting a just and inclusive energy transition.

The five crucial types of policies that improve community engagement and workforce development during auctions include:

  1. Government policies that aim to leverage and enhance domestic capabilities;
  2. Education and skills policies that increase technical capacities and technological learning within the local community;
  3. Labor market policies that facilitate labor opportunities, rights, and mobility;
  4. Financial policies that encourage revenue streams that benefit more people; and
  5. Social protection policies that provide support for vulnerable workers and their communities and prevent them from shouldering an unfair burden during the energy transition.

For More Information

Inspection engineers standing on top of a wind turbine
USAID is helping Colombia diversify its energy mix with renewable energy while combating climate change, lowering electricity costs, creating local jobs, and promoting gender equality in the energy sector.
© Pugun & Photo Studio / Adobe Stock

2018–ONGOING, COLOMBIA – USAID is helping Colombia diversify its energy mix with renewable energy while combating climate change, lowering electricity costs, creating local jobs, and promoting gender equality in the energy sector.

USAID Colombia

USAID supports government and citizen efforts in Colombia to promote economic prosperity through the licit economy; improve the living conditions of victims of violence and vulnerable groups, including Afro-Colombians and indigenous peoples; promote respect for human rights and rule of law; and address climate change and environmental issues in one of the most ecologically diverse countries in the world.

Mother holding her son in nature. Wind turbines in the background.
Through the Scaling Up Renewable Energy program, USAID helps partner countries power economies with renewable energy, meet international climate commitments, and open markets to private investment and competition.
© Viktor Pravdica / Adobe Stock

2017–ONGOING, GLOBAL – USAID’s Scaling Up Renewable Energy (SURE) program helps partner countries meet bold climate commitments by accelerating their transition to more affordable, reliable, and accessible energy that spurs growth, powers health systems, and reduces emissions.

Through SURE, USAID provides a variety of services to help policymakers, utilities, and regulators plan, procure, and integrate renewable energy, modernize energy sectors, and create policies that enable sustainable energy markets to flourish. As more countries aim to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and reduce hazardous waste, SURE’s Innovation Fund supports clean energy technology, energy efficiency innovation, and a circular economy for renewable energy equipment.

Thursday, December 9, 2021 - 3:00pm

Last updated: July 24, 2022