The Growth, seen in just the past 5 years, a period of unprecedented expansion for the sector has not really been nurtured as well as it should be, considering the imperatives involved here.
India’s renewable energy workforce has grown five-fold in the past five years. In 2019, nearly 100,000 workers are employed in the solar and wind industry, up from 19,800 workers in 2014. Of these, 12,400 new workers were employed in FY19 and 30,000 new workers were employed in FY18 by utility-scale solar, rooftop solar, and wind energy projects. These findings were released in a new study by the Skills Council on Green Jobs in partnership with the Council on Energy, Environment, and Water (CEEW), and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
Rapid capacity addition in India’s solar and wind sectors have been the primary drivers behind the growth, according to the new report – Powering Jobs Growth with Green Energy. Achieving India’s renewable energy target of 175 GW by 2022, has the potential to create employment for over 330,000 workers in the wind and solar sectors – at least 230,000 additional workers between now and 2022. For context, take the case of NTPC, India’s largest thermal power producer, which employees 19800 odd employees for a capacity of 55786 MW at large count. Of course, the thermal sector has a huge tail, in the form of Coal India Limited itself, which employs close to 285,000 people.
Despite that, this report demonstrates how solar, even as it may not create as many white caller or long term jobs as say, thermal, has a strong case for itself simply on the basis of jobs creation too. It’s an angle we had featured back in June.
Dr Praveen Saxena, CEO of the Skill Council for Green Jobs, says, “India’s renewable energy programme is remarkable. Employment in the solar and wind sectors alone has grown five-fold in five years reaching nearly 100,000 in FY 19.”
The analysis finds that 45,000 workers could be employed in solar module manufacturing in India as part of the 100 GW solar target.
The study also confirms our regular contention that about higher focus on rooftop solar and other decentralised renewable energy technologies. These created significantly more employment than utility-scale solar and wind energy sectors. Nearly 39,000 workers were employed for just 3.8 GW of total cumulative installed rooftop solar until FY19. In comparison, close to 38,000 workers were employed for 26.2 GW of utility-scale solar and over 23,000 workers were employed for 35.6 GW of total cumulative wind energy installed.
Dr. Saxena adds, “Over 58,000 workers have been trained till date by the government. To meet the growing demands of India’s renewable energy sector, we will now focus on improving technical competency of skill development centres, deepening penetration of training institutes in smaller cities and rural areas, increasing collaborations with industry, constantly upgrading training programmes, and creating a larger pool of skilled trainers.”
The CEEW-NRDC-SCGJ study also highlights that emerging renewable energy technologies such as floating solar, wind-solar hybrid projects, solar photovoltaic plants with battery energy storage systems, and agro-photovoltaics such as solar pumps, could create additional employment opportunities in the coming years. SCGJ and partners also urge the renewable energy companies to improve reporting on the number of jobs created at every stage of the value chain and skill requirements to ensure market growth and political support over time.
Besides the huge employment potential, the success of the renewable energy market is also crucial to India’s achieving its Paris Climate Agreement targets. India has committed to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions intensity of its GDP by at least 33% below the 2005 levels by 2030, and to achieving 40% of installed electric power capacity from non-fossil sources by the same year.
While a report, brought out in partnership with relevant government agencies that actually recommends policy stability, and the right enabling measures is welcome, it remains to be seen whether the government can walk the talk. The industry too, as an overwhelmingly privately owned sector, needs to explore ways of moving out of the policy overhang it operates within. That has led to massive failures on the communications side, and a forced obsession with pricing, which one fears is already laying the seeds for future quality issues.
Despite all the talk, ‘consumers’ will be hard put to name any ‘brand’ in the sector, save for old established players like Tata power or the Adanis now. With solar power at parity or even lower cost than grid power today, it is incredible that brand building, and communicating the green aspect of solar power has not really been communicated to drum up wider support. Here’s hoping that will change, as the triple benefits of a more sustainable energy mix , jobs, and meeting our global climate obligations beckon.