India’s renewable energy push can create new jobs

  • India’s push to generate 160 GW of power from solar and wind energy can also generate 330,000 new jobs by 2022.
  • Currently, there are 100,000 people employed in solar energy and 48,000 in wind energy sectors.
  • Since Renewable Energy is decentralised power, there are opportunities for generating jobs in villages.

India’s push to significantly strengthen the share of renewable energy to fuel its development growth can have other positive spillover impacts. In addition to improving energy security, enhancing energy access, and mitigating climate change, renewable energy (RE) may be able to help reduce poverty, by creating jobs. These being jobs that require high to minimal professional skills, there is employment potential for even those with limited educational opportunities along with the professionals.

Can Renewable Energy Jobs Help Reduce Poverty in India? — a recent report from the World Resources Institute India (WRI India) states that renewable energy jobs could empower rural women by offering an alternative to subsistence farming.

Jobs in this sector are expected to create opportunities for poverty reduction along the renewable energy supply chain. Currently, there are 100,000 people employed in solar energy and another 48,000 in wind energy sectors. This number is expected to go up to 330,000 by the time India achieves its target of generating 160 GW from solar and wind energy by 2022, finds a study by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The WRI’s study is a qualitative analysis of these jobs, about how they have the potential to reduce poverty, especially in rural India.

“Renewable energy is a good option to keep us on the growth pathway. We need renewables to create jobs in India”, said Praveen Kumar, additional secretary, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Government of India. In its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) submitted for the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the country has committed to meet 40% of its energy needs from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030.

Technicians installing a solar panel. Photo by Bhaskar Deol.

“India has ambitious targets for expanding renewable energy and developing a renewable energy industry, with expectations to generate 100 gigawatts of solar energy, 60 GW of wind energy, 10 GW of bioenergy and 5 GW of small hydro by 2022. The transition from an economy heavily reliant on fossil fuels to one that uses cleaner energy resources will generate a shift in employment, especially in the energy sector,” explained Pamli Deka, manager of WRI’s Electricity Governance Initiative and co-author of the report.

More jobs per MW in the villages

“The jobs will be geographically dispersed in areas located away from towns and cities, thereby spreading the economic benefits,” Deka explained. “These are also areas where people have fewer renewable energy skills and few alternative employment opportunities other than seasonal farming.”

“In solar technology, a minimum of 17 people are required per megawatt (MW) of installed capacity – from manufacturing to the operation, unlike coal where hardly five are needed,” said S.P. Gon Chaudhuri, chairman of the Tripura State Solar Power Committee. “As a result, employment generation in coal is restricted, unlike solar or the RE sector, which are distributed and more people are needed to maintain and operate it.”

In the years to come, jobs will be created related to other applications of the solar technology, such as for water pumps used for drinking water and irrigation projects. Since it is a versatile technology, the opportunity for employment is also vast, he said.

However unlike solar, for wind turbines, the potential for generating employment is not so much, since it is a one-time installation. Wind turbines also need less maintenance than solar panels.

Wind energy generates less employment than solar energy since wind turbines require less maintenance than solar panels. Photo by Piyush Tripathi/Wikimedia Commons.

What needs to be done

The report recommends that for jobs in the RE sector to have an impact on poverty reduction, they need to incorporate elements of “good” jobs, such as reliability of income, healthcare benefits, employee safety policies, and training opportunities. But the report finds that majority of jobs in the sector are contractual and do not offer benefits or job stability.

Additionally, the report recommends how these existing and new jobs can alter the scenario in India. For example, training programmes should be developed for people with little education and training, who do not qualify for existing courses. There should be localised training for women. The linkages between training institutes and enterprises need to be strengthened.

The report notes that there is a lack of baseline data to assess the impact of RE jobs on the poor. This will require field surveys, additional in-depth studies and collection of data on skill sets required for jobs, existing skill sets of people doing these jobs and information on the kind of people being employed in the industry.

More than 50,000 solar technicians are already working in the country, and this will increase in the coming years. Photo from Renewable Energy of Kolkata.

Meeting targets and training people

Praveen Saxena, the chief executive officer of the Skill Council for Green Jobs, believes that more jobs in the clean energy sector will aid in meeting the government’s target of generating 175 GW by 2022. “Surely, it goes hand in hand. If we do not have skilled or trained manpower to execute the projects, it is difficult to achieve the target. Similarly, if there is no target, no jobs would be created.”

The RE industry plans to build on installing capacity on a year-on-year basis so that workforce would be available for subsequent projects to be implemented in the years to come. It would be green growth along with green energy.

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