Despite increased demand for clean energy, global solar, energy storage, and wind companies are experiencing a number of challenges. These include rising costs, supply chain issues, and disruptive policies. A particularly vexing problem is difficulties around securing and retaining a well-trained workforce.
Latin America is no exception. Many companies in these countries are grappling with labor shortages while trying to keep up with a rapidly expanding renewable energy market. However, many American businesses have employed strategies that mitigate the impact of this shortfall, providing lessons for Latin American companies seeking to capitalize on the boom and scale.
Reasons For The American Labor Shortage
The shortage of clean energy workers in the United States is due to a number of factors. One is the sharp growth of the renewables market across multiple sectors. The US solar industry has grown 20.7% per year on average for the past six years, while the energy storage market size was valued at $336.6 million in 2019, with an expected growth rate of 23.9% through 2027. Many businesses are struggling to find workers to keep up with this rapid growth.
Additionally, the workforce in America is aging, a problem exacerbated by a diminishing interest from young people in the kind of field service labor needed by renewable energy installation and maintenance companies. Finally, the historical lack of apprenticeships and other training programs for renewable energy workers in sectors like solar and wind makes it difficult for companies to secure a robust roster of trained technicians.
One way American legislators have sought to mitigate this problem is by investing in training programs that establish the groundwork for qualified workers. The American Department of Energy has instituted a number of training programs, and the recent federal law, the Inflation Reduction Act, incentivized registered apprenticeships that serve as a training and employment pathway for renewables workers. A number of industry organizations, including the Solar Energy Industries Association, one of the largest professional solar associations in America, have long advocated for increased training to meet expanding market needs.
Latin American countries should also plan early to ensure that they have the workforce needed to meet the growing demand for clean energy jobs. Aggressively investing in training programs will help workers develop the skills needed for engineering, design, installation, and maintenance. Creating incentives for workers to switch from oil and coal, for example, to clean energy would help make the often low-paying field service positions more attractive. These incentives can include tax breaks and subsidies.
Government Partnerships with the Clean Energy Private Sector
The American government, both state and federal, has made significant efforts to partner with private renewables companies to bolster clean energy deployment and the clean energy economy, something that impacts the availability of renewables jobs. The Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory has created strategic public-private partnerships to promote and develop high-impact, multiyear, multisector collaborations around domestic clean energy growth while other federal and state government entities have paired with private companies to promote renewables manufacturing, spur community solar growth, and achieve greater equity in access to solar and energy storage.
Given how important the private sector is to clean energy proliferation and job growth, it would behoove Latin American countries to partner with private sector institutions and investors to develop training programs and create employment opportunities. A number of countries in Central and South America have fairly underdeveloped renewables markets. Implementing policies like tax incentives, subsidies, and legislation that promote climate tech technology, modernized energy infrastructure, and green investment would go a long way toward creating an environment conducive to renewable growth and job creation.
Digital Tools For An Optimized Workforce
To compensate for the paucity of qualified workers, many American renewables companies are capitalizing on AI and other digital tools to more effectively use their existing workforce. Businesses in solar and battery manufacturing, BOS components for these systems, wind power, electric vehicles, and more are optimizing their office and field staff processes by automating and streamlining workflows. This eliminates mundane, repetitive tasks and organizational redundancies.
Latin American companies struggling with workforce inefficiencies in the face of labor and other issues can invest in the right operational tools like Field Service Management (FSM) powered by AI. FSM allows for automated scheduling and dispatching to reduce errors and tap the right technician for the right job. It also ensures effective digital compliance and audits so jobs are done right and within regulations regarding safety and safeguards. The platform can integrate with existing business applications like CRM and ERP to reduce manual operations and improve data management across multiple systems.
Effective field service management also provides rich mobile applications for technicians so that they communicate and collaborate effectively and can perform tasks autonomously from anywhere, using any device. This is particularly useful because it provides an intelligent and contextual knowledge base integrated with business processes that ensures a less skilled workforce can be empowered to perform jobs efficiently. Tapping AI creates a level of oversight and transparency that allows teams to identify and predict issues much more efficiently than humans. This puts less strain on office and field teams and ensures more targeted deployments of field service engineers.
Proactive Strategies That Address Workforce Limitations
Despite the difficulties brought by labor shortages in clean energy, there are a number of strategies Latin American companies and governments can employ to mitigate the problem. From pushing for training programs and supportive policies to strategic partnerships and workforce digitization, these solutions would go a long way toward improving worker and company productivity and efficiency. And when this occurs, everyone wins since these countries are better able to deploy the kind of clean energy solutions our planet so urgently needs.