Loraima Jaramillo is shining light onto an area of the solar power field that needs attention.
Jaramillo, a program manager who works on modernizing the electrical grid in Puerto Rico, wants to make solar panel installation more inviting to women and others from underrepresented communities.
“[I]n Puerto Rico, just as in the rest of the United States, the solar industry promises to be a major job creator in the coming years,” Jaramillo wrote in a 2021 online post. “[I]t will be vital to ensure the clean energy jobs boom does not leave anyone behind.”
Earlier this year, Jaramillo, who also uses the name Jaramillo-Nieves professionally, spoke with Yale Climate Connections (YCC) about prejudice in the industry and how women receive different treatment because of their gender.
“When they do physical labor, there’s always someone trying to help them to lift the panels,” Jaramillo told YCC, noting that building better workplace culture is one step toward encouraging women in the industry. “They don’t need help. They are just like any other worker.”
Jaramillo’s career path includes earning an MBA from the University of Puerto Rico and a Ph.D. in environment and human and socioeconomic dimensions from the Complutense University of Madrid. For her doctoral thesis, Jaramillo wrote about the acceptance of renewable energy by the market and community in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico has recently set strong commitments to renewable energy, such as solar. Yet Jaramillo has pointed out that only 1% of accredited installers in Puerto Rico are women, based on data from the U.S. territory’s Public Energy Policy Program.
Meanwhile, women represent less than a third of the nation’s solar workforce overall, according to the most recent National Solar Jobs Census, published by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC). Jaramillo worked at this organization until recently, when she took a job with LUMA, a company that manages electric power in Puerto Rico.
“The disproportionate gender gap and the scarce presence of LGBTTQI+ people in the solar industry can be found in every U.S. jurisdiction, and Puerto Rico is not an exception,” Jaramillo wrote for the IREC in 2021.
She suggested that what’s good for these groups is good for the country, noting that hundreds of thousands of solar workers will be needed to meet the Biden administration’s goal of having an electrical grid free of carbon pollution by 2035.
“To make this possible, it will be necessary to train and recruit many more workers, including population groups with a limited presence in the industry,” Jaramillo wrote.
A transition toward carbon-free electricity generation is something we can all take part in and benefit from — possibly by getting a job in the solar industry or joining a community solar program. Reducing the production of heat-trapping carbon pollution can help limit global warming and dangerous natural disasters. Such effects were felt closely in Puerto Rico, which suffered devastating hurricanes and power outages in 2017 and last year.
Even here, though, Jaramillo and others see opportunities — she hopes Puerto Rico continues rebuilding its grid to create jobs and economic opportunities for all.“We still have a long way to achieve an equitable solar workforce for all humans,” Jaramillo said on LinkedIn. “As professionals in the energy sector, our commitment must be to facilitate all individuals who want to be part of this amazing industry to have the opportunity to join us and advance in their careers.”
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