7. Incorporate gender, equality and social inclusion considerations in all policie

Equality and inclusion should be built into clean energy policy design to prevent any risk of disproportionate or unintended consequences for certain segments of society, avoid exacerbating existing inequalities and support the principles of human rights while leaving no one behind and providing all people with an opportunity to contribute to clean energy transitions. In particular, the needs and priorities of historically marginalised groups should be carefully considered and incorporated through broad consultations with representatives of relevant constituencies.

  • The Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM)’s Clean Energy Education and Empowerment initiative, chaired by Canada, is a joint effort under the CEM and the IEA Technology Collaboration Programme to advance gender equality in the energy sector globally.
  • Chile seeks to boost women’s participation in clean energy through its ‘Energia + Mujer´ programme, addressing key barriers women face in pursuing a career in the sector.
  • Denmark’s Inge Lehmann Research Program offers grants to female researchers with the objective of improving the gender balance in STEM fields, including energy and climate.
  • The EU is launching the ‘Equality platform for the energy sector’, open to all stakeholders in the energy sector to highlight their actions promoting equality in the workplace.

In emerging economies, women are often disproportionately affected by a lack of energy access or reliance on more polluting forms of energy. More consideration should be given to programmes that directly impact women’s health and social and economic well-being, including the positive impact of clean cooking. Clean cooking initiatives such as those advanced by the Clean Cooking Alliance should be supported, especially as they relate to the lives of rural women. Indonesia’s Kopernik “Wonder Women” programme links technologies such as biomass stoves, solar lights and water filters to recruited and trained women micro-entrepreneurs. A shift toward more modern fuels and appliances will also have benefits by freeing up women’s and girls’ capacity to pursue education, entrepreneurship or enter the workforce.

Local, bottom-up education, training and empowerment are also important factors in providing the skills necessary for jobs in the clean energy economy, as evidenced by the Girls4Rurals initiative, which provides training for a network of young girls to work as distributors of solar PV systems. Similarly, the Indian social service centre, SevaKendra, has a project for “gender mainstreaming through solar technology” to provide rural women training in assembling and selling solar lamps.

Without a specific focus on equality, policies can risk bringing disadvantage, or failing to bring advantage, to more marginalised sections of society. They can also be perceived as unfair or as benefitting only richer segments of society. Design features of clean energy programmes can support progressive outcomes as in South Africa’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme, which attempts to enhance social inclusion and distributional impacts by including criteria such as local ownership, socio-economic development, and enterprise development. 

Case studies

All policies should include gender, equality and social inclusion considerations

C3E International

To ensure that the low carbon transition is equitable and inclusive, the Clean Energy Education and Empowerment (C3E) International initiative was re-launched in 2017 as a joint effort between the Clean Energy Ministerial and the IEA. The initiative, co-led and co-chaired by Canada, works to advance gender equality in the energy sector globally. Canada leads the Awards & Recognition programme under C3E International, which recognises outstanding individuals and organisations contributing to a clean energy future while advancing the empowerment of women. Canada also leads the Equal by 30 Campaign, under C3E International, which encourages voluntary commitments by both public and private sector organisations to work towards equal pay, equal leadership and equal opportunities for women in the energy sector by 2030. Given a persistent lack of sustained gender-disaggregated data collection in the energy sector, which makes inclusive policy development and decision-making more difficult, the government of Canada has developed a reporting framework under Equal by 30 for all signatories to measure their progress, and to create a baseline of gender-disaggregated data for the energy sector. The reporting framework results, released in March 2021, provided insight into diverse representation and inclusive workplaces within the energy sector, and are a critical first step in using data-driven insights to accelerate progress and take targeted action. Under the 2021 UK G7 Presidency, energy ministers of the G7 unanimously agreed to “deepen efforts to advance gender equality and diversity in the energy sector, including under the Equal by 30 Campaign”, to build a more inclusive and equitable workforce that enables the sector to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chile’s “Energia+Mujer” programme

The Chilean government launched a public-private partnership in 2018 to develop a strategy to promote greater participation of women in the country’s clean energy transition. The programme “Energia + Mujer” began implementation in 2020 and runs until 2030. It consists of establishing a framework with indicators identifying and evaluating gender gaps in the energy sector, and implementing specific actions to address these gaps. One of the objectives is, for example, the creation of institutional conditions that allow women and men to have equal and fair work-family reconciliation. Companies are committed to reducing the barriers women face in pursuing a career in the energy sector, by revising their recruitment, selection and promotion processes, setting gender equity targets, and providing training workshops to staff in order to raise awareness about gender inequality and violence, and to find solutions to better include women in the clean energy sector.

Denmark’s Inge Lehmann Programme

Denmark’s Inge Lehmann Programme offers research grants to researchers with the objective of improving gender balance. Inge Lehmann grants are awarded to younger researchers, as evidence shows that gender imbalances emerge at early career stages in research environments. The programme aims to draw attention to the gender imbalance in academia, where in Denmark only 23% of professors at Danish universities are currently women. Researchers can apply for project funding via the Independent Research Fund Denmark, which expects to award 30 to 40 grants in 2021, with funding disseminated in 2022. The programme’s funding for 2021 totals DKK 110 million (EUR 14.8 million)

The EU’s "Equality platform for the energy sector"

The European Commission is establishing an ‘Equality platform for the energy sector’ to promote a commitment to inclusion and equality in all its forms. Through this, the EU is embracing equality and inclusion not only as a core principle and a fundamental right, but also acknowledging it as a driver for economic growth and social well-being in energy policy and an important accelerator for achieving climate neutrality by 2050, as stipulated by the European Green Deal. The platform was officially launched during the EU Sustainable Energy Week in October 2021 and will allow a broad range of stakeholders in the energy sector to apply for membership to highlight their actions promoting equality. 

Kopernik’s Wonder Women programme in Eastern Indonesia

The Kopernik’s Wonder Women programme implemented in Eastern Indonesia aims to help reduce energy poverty by providing access to clean energy sources. The programme trains women micro entrepreneurs and provides them with affordable clean technologies such as biomass stoves, solar lighting and water filters to sell to their communities. Given that in Eastern Indonesia, women are primarily responsible for purchasing and using conventional fuels (e.g woodfire, kerosene), the programme is focused on empowering women. Moreover, training women to sell these affordable clean energy solutions to other women helps support market penetration of these technologies in light of the role that peer-to-peer sales plays in building product trust in rural markets. From 2014-2017, the programme trained 488 women, who sold 25 620 clean products. The sales of these technologies resulted in an estimated fuel cost savings of USD 1.9 million.

Girls4rurals initiative

The “Girls4rurals” initiative was launched in 2018 by the social enterprise group Rural Development Initiative and its implementing partner, Himalayan Innovations, to address the need for a common platform to connect young girls who work toward cleaner and greener communities. The initiative trains young Himalayan girls on adaptation of renewable energy technology, notably by working as distributors of solar PV systems for transforming rural lives. Girls4rurals uses a digital platform to connect Nepalese girls who live in rural communities, enabling knowledge exchange and experience on skills and ways of living. Local, bottom-up education, training and women’s empowerment are crucial factors in providing the skills necessary for jobs in the clean energy economy, focusing on climate action. 

Seva Kendra Calcutta’s gender mainstreaming project for solar lighting

Seva Kendra Calcutta, with funding from Misereor E.V. Germany, initiated a project in 2015 on Natural Resource Management addressing Climate Change by Gender Mainstreaming through Solar Technology. The main objective of the programme is to improve energy security for about 1 400 families from 16 villages in the district of West Midnapur and to create new income opportunities for Adivasi women by training them in the use, production and marketing of solar powered lights to create sustainable livelihoods. As part of the project activity, hands-on-training to 402 tribal women to assemble solar lanterns, mini lights, home lighting system along with their installation, maintenance and fault detection was provided. As a result, in fiscal year 2018-19, 265 female technicians took up assembling solar products as their full time occupation and have even earned a profit of INR 581 952 (EUR 6 718); and the figures are steadily increasing. Moreover, 4 055 solar lanterns were sold and their use has had a notable impact in the CO2 reduction

South Africa’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement programme

Managed by the South Africa Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement (REIPPP) programme was introduced in 2011 to encourage the participation of the private sector in electricity generation through renewable sources. The bidding process under this competitive procurement programme integrates a number of socio-economic development qualification criteria, with a specific focus on local black communities, especially black women and black youth. Criteria include job creation, minimum local content requirements to encourage growth of local industry, thresholds for project ownership and management by black people and local communities, contributions to local skills development, development of local enterprises and suppliers, and addressing local socio-economic needs. In ten years, 81 projects qualifying under the REIPPP programme connected 5 250 MW of electricity generation capacity to the national grid while leading to the creation of 60 517 jobs, with ZAR 1.6 billion (USD 107 million) ring-fenced for socio-economic development and ZAR 484.1 million (USD 32 million) allocated to enterprise development. The programme demonstrates the value of proactively connecting climate change mitigation goals to broader socio-economic development objectives in policy design.