Sustainability Report 2021: Accelerating a Just Energy TransitionThursday 14th July 2022
At Lekela, we believe in a just transition to a society that is fossil fuel free, and delivers energy, products and services in a truly sustainable manner. Our recently published Sustainability Report outlines how we aim to support long-term prosperity that is equitable and mutually beneficial, while delivering on our mission to build and operate renewable power plants.
Just transition means a system change towards a sustainable economy. And we recognise that as a company operating in the renewable energy space, we are equipped across our business to help drive this change. Not only do we do this through our core business of building and operating our plants, but through capacity-building activities and community investment, where we can create long-term value past the lifespan of Lekela’s projects. That’s why we support economic development directly and indirectly by encouraging partners and contractors to employ and procure materials locally; and by investing a portion of our profits to fund education, enterprise and environmental development initiatives.
Creating local jobs
Achieving sustainable economic growth in Africa requires an increase in long-term quality employment. To build and operate utility-scale renewable energy projects we need a skilled, stable workforce, which aligns with this development goal.
Lekela takes advantage of this by creating local jobs and developing workers’ skills, which provides an opportunity to reinvigorate rural communities where employment opportunities can be lacking. In 2021 around 40% of our workforce at our wind farms were employed from the local community, helping increase household incomes and mobilise technical skills in a growing industry.
We also invest in skills development and training programmes to increase community participation and build labour market resilience, and work closely with our contractors and suppliers to make upskilling opportunities accessible to all workers.
In 2021, Lekela invested $2.3 million in education and skills development and awarded more than 140 young people with bursaries for further education, totalling $140,000. Our projects successfully show how making training available significantly enhances local participation.
It is our business ambition that consumers and businesses alike across Africa can access plentiful, reliable and clean grid-scale energy – modern energy access.
Renewable power has progressed in recent years with new technologies helping to decrease costs and build reliability and resiliency. Lekela’s wind farms support energy decarbonisation across Africa, providing cheaper, greener electricity to the grid, helping to power more homes and enterprises. This is also one of the intended outcomes of our social development programmes, which supports local energy initiatives.
For example, in the Taiba N'Diaye community we continue to operate an 88kW solar energy system that supplements power for the municipal water supply. The system has reduced outages by 40% and costs by 25%. In the same community, Lekela has installed 38 solar-powered irrigation pumps to replace fossil fuels, helping the agricultural sector in Senegal to modernise and decarbonise.
In achieving a just energy transition, we aim to include and protect the interests of all stakeholders in the decision-making process.
We aim for representation and inclusion across all levels of the organisation, and our Diversity and Inclusion Working Group meets monthly and discusses ways to promote equal opportunities and foster an inclusive and welcoming work environment.
Regular stakeholder meetings are also held across all projects where community representatives discuss steps for development, and the outcomes are communicated to our board.
In our mission to deliver shared value, Lekela commits to investing a portion of our revenue back into our project communities. This year, we supported over 200 initiatives across our project sites in Africa, including building a business incubator and IT centre to support entrepreneurs in addition to business grants; funding maths and science programmes in 10 schools; building a rehabilitation centre for children with autism; and training women community members as teachers and carers.
In total we invested $3.8 million into our communities in South Africa, Senegal and Egypt and more than 80,000 community members participated in these initiatives. We also created more than 500 jobs for local workers, significantly surpassing our target of creating 180 jobs over 2 years.
We understand that our role in society positions us to positively influence women’s empowerment beyond our core business, helping to end entrenched intergenerational gender inequalities. The COVID pandemic hindered job creation and women’s entrepreneurship support efforts, so we have been working remotely with local women’s groups to develop meaningful initiatives.
This year, in addition to skills and development training, we encouraged women’s entrepreneurship by implementing renewable energy solutions to power their businesses. As a first step, we’ve installed 14.7kW of solar PV solutions for agricultural ventures established and led by the women in our Taiba N’Diaye community. The systems will power their machinery and raw material processing, helping them capture value by offering more refined products.