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Strategies for capacity building by training process
Training should never be overlooked. Given that renewables tend to be a more labor-intensive energy source, training means not just to equip the ‘green workers‘ with latest tools, but there is a lot more to it. Actually training, itself, can be seen as the very entrance into the industry now.

By Anja Haupt



According to the REN 2010 Global Status Report, by last year there were already over 3 million jobs worldwide in renewable energy. In 2006 the figure was 2.4 million. In Germany, the industry has generated about 300,000 jobs, which is expected to grow to around 400,000 by 2020.

Given the rapid pace of development, any shortage of professionals with the right expertise could quickly become a hindrance to the growth of a sustainable energy supply.

It’s not only technical experts like engineers and installers that are needed. A look at the value chain for renewable energies shows the diversity of job profiles for which know-how is needed, starting with those in government bodies and administrators through manufacturers, project developers, engineers, construction engineers, operators, right through to electricity traders, grid operators, financiers and insurers. In addition, there are national differences concerning which point in the value chain the most skilled workers are being sought. Training must, first of all, be oriented towards the requirements of the market, and might be designed very differently depending on the country in focus and maturity of its market. A study by Wissenschaftsladen Bonn has shown that in Germany the greatest need for professionals lies in the areas of sales, distribution and logistics. Quite unlike the situation, for example, in Mexico, where a Renewable Energy Law was first passed at the end of 2008 and currently there is a desperate shortage of qualified installers.


The Renewables Academy(RENAC) has developed a training concept that integrates the different training needs along the renewable energy value chain. Fundamentally, RENAC offers training in the technologies of photovoltaics, solar thermal, wind power, bio energy and energy efficiency, both for technical and non-technical professions. The process starts with the development of a target-group and technology-specific training concept, always taking a detailed analysis of: who is to be trained, what expertise do they need and which training methodology would be best to use. Engineers and technicians predominantly rely on technical knowledge. However, in many cases this is not enough, and they also have a need for knowledge about economic or legal issues. Conversely, it is often helpful for project managers if, for example, in addition to administrative and commercial know-how, they are also equipped with a basic understanding of the technology.


How such targeted training courses can be put together, is best demonstrated by some examples.

The incentives for green energy supplies must in the rule be initiated by policy makers. Therefore, RENAC’s Capacity Building for Renewable Energy is targeted towards policy makers. They have to be able to assess the individual renewable energy technologies, weigh up their pros and cons, assess their use under various conditions and be informed about likely difficulties in implementation. They also have to learn about appropriate incentive mechanisms.

RENAC has developed different approaches to the training of policy makers. One of these is the TREE project. TREE stands for Transfer Renewable Energy & Efficiency. Through this project, RENAC offers a multi-level training program, which should enable decision makers to advance the development of renewable energy in their countries. One-week overview and advanced courses are on offer. The seminars are held not only in RENAC’s Training Center in Berlin but also directly on-location in the respective countries. This year all those signatory states of the IRENA program that are also developing or emerging countries were able to participate. This came to over 100 countries. A key element of the course is the international exchange of experience between course participants and the possibility of building a network that transcends national boundaries. In this way, the traditional student-teacher learning situation is broken up; the students learn not only from teachers but also from each other, based on their own experiences. The project has been supported over the last 3 years by the International Climate Initiative of the German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.

While international exchange is in the foreground in seminars such as TREE, others must be adapted to country-specific needs. Take, for example, training for the Public Authority for Electricity and Water (PAEW) and the Rural Areas Electricity Company (RAECO) in Oman. The sultanate is just starting to develop renewable energy sources for its national energy supply. Among other things, the use of solar thermal power plants is being discussed. The decision on the utilization of CSP is to be discussed by a wide range of decision makers in Oman. In order to prepare for these discussions, a seminar was organized to lay the ground for a common understanding about the basics of CSP.

Engineers come at another point in the value chain. They need a sound knowledge of the technology and the technical components; they must know how to design and lay out plant and to monitor its quality. However, depending on their area of work, often other specialist knowledge is required. So, for example, RENAC conducted a photovoltaic training course for the engineers of ADDC, the largest operator in the UAE. As part of a 500 MW PV pilot project for the government, engineers had to be equipped to deal with solar power generation technology. The ADDC was handed the implementation of the project and the company’s engineers have to monitor the installation and also look after its connection to the grid. Therefore, the course outline focused on topics such as system design, installation, maintenance and monitoring, together with integration into the grid network.

Again, a completely different training profile is required for project managers, who especially need to know about the project-specifics of renewable energy work. Which project phases exist--from the initial project concept through to the maintenance of the system, what contracts must be signed, what must be considered for grid connections and energy trading? These are just some of the issues that project managers must know about in this energy sector. RENAC undertakes special Manager Training for this target group, which primarily focuses on the financial and administrative aspects of these technologies. In order to be able to make informed decisions, the project developers often need a basic understanding of the technology too. For this, special courses such as ‘Technical Training for Non-Technicians’ are on offer.

Renewable energy projects stand or fall most often by their financing. Investors must therefore have adequate knowledge about financial assessment of RE projects. They need to understand the different risk profiles and financing needs of RE technologies.



The Regional Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (RCREEE) based in Cairo is a think tank that wants to increase the use of renewable energies in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. A total of 10 states from the region belong to the organization. Under the RCREEE training program ‘Young Leaders in Renewable Energies’, RENAC has trained young professionals about the financing of renewable energy technologies. The training provided participants with insights about financing alternatives as well as the sources of finance available to a developer. It also addressed the key factors within an RE project that create conditions of financial viability so as to achieve successful financing. So, for example, given the importance of appropriate risk management for creditworthiness, risk identification for the different RE technologies was covered in detail, together with its allocation to project stakeholders. Project finance and structured financing for large RE projects also formed an important component of the training.

To make such courses as effective as possible, the key thing, when it comes to methodology, is practical relevance. When dealing with the theoretical background, practical case examples are invaluable or, for deepening understanding, field trips can be used. The most important part of the practical training is, however, the hands-on training in the RENAC Training Center. Here, specialist training equipment is available for photovoltaics, solar thermal energy, wind energy and energy efficiency. In the PV Lab, students can practice all the steps needed for setting up a PV system, from planning and installation through to maintenance and quality control. Many other additional exercises are available, for example measuring the electrical properties of a solar module in different orientations and by varying levels of solar radiation, doing shade analyses, etc.

In the Solar Thermal Laboratory, the step-by-step design and installation of equipment for the generation of hot water for plant or for space heating can be practiced. For example, participants on the solar thermal courses carry out exercises in sizing the collector area and storage, and in assembling collectors. They also learn about the installation of the solar circulation regulator and the various piping, or they might have to fault-find problems in pre-assembled systems.

The key topic in the Wind Laboratory is developing an understanding of the physics of wind energy. Participants undertake a broad range of experiments with micro wind turbines: observing the effect of changing wind speed, measuring power curves, varying the number of rotor blades, changing the rotor pitch, examining the aerodynamic lift and resistance, measuring tip speed or looking at other typical technical parameters. Since many courses do not take place directly in Berlin, but rather on location in other countries, RENAC has designed an additional mobile training center for these purposes.

The above examples mainly describe short-term training courses. They allow the development of skilled workers at little cost and even allow career changers to enter the industry. Sometimes though a one- or two-week training course is inadequate. Therefore, in addition to its range of vocational qualifications, RENAC is, therefore, pursuing an additional education strategy to strengthen the renewable energy sector: collaboration with universities.

Universities are increasingly trying to set up special programs in renewable energy. Through partnerships with private educational institutions such as RENAC, who have already built up extensive know-how on the educational issues in this area, synergies can be utilized and specialized courses developed.

RENAC is already leading the way here, having started 3 years ago with the Technical University of Berlin. Together, they have launched the GPE Solar (Global Production for Solar Energy) Master’s degree. This complete program, run in English, for engineers who want to specialize in the solar industry, reflects RENAC’s concept: part of the course develops technical expertise; another part emphasizes business aspects and management know-how. In addition, it ensures that the engineers also receive training in soft skills.

A further Master’s, this time not for engineers, but rather for managers, is being launched with the Berlin Beuth University of Applied Sciences. The MBA in Renewables is due to start next year. This Master’s will be undertaken online.

Regardless of the training format being used for a particular target group, international capacity building must always recognize that energy concepts cannot be transferred 1:1 from one country to another. The issues in renewable energies are not only multidisciplinary, but always dependent on the geographical, political or economic conditions in a particular country. Therefore, a training course can only be considered successful if its participants have been able to identify options and create a knowledge base that can be used as the basis of developing own and specific action plans. These can, then, lead the way to a sustainable diversification of the energy mix.


Anja Haupt is PR and Marketing Director at Renewables Academy (www.renac.de). Haupt received her Degree as Dipl. Cultural scientist (Media) at the Bauhaus University in Weimar and the Universidad Pompeo Fabra in Barcelona. She has worked for several years as a PR Consultant and spokesperson for internationally operating companies, publishing houses and technology companies. In the last years, she has specialized for communications in the fields of renewable energies. She is currently undertaking a Master program in renewable energies and energy efficiency.



For more information, please send your e-mails to pved@infothe.com.

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