Tremendous Growth in India’s Renewable Energy Workforce
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 on July 15, 2019 by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and the Skill Council for Green Jobs (SCGJ). Rapid capacity addition in India’s solar and wind sectors has been the primary driver 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. Dr Arunabha Ghosh, CEO, CEEW, felt that India lies at the centre of the ongoing global energy transition and its successful renewable energy programme is inspiring and enabling similar low-carbon transitions across other emerging economies. In the last 2 years, the capacity addition in India’s renewable energy sector outweighed additions in thermal power. While India deepens its renewable energy markets to ensure that the employment potential is met, it would also need to increase focus on creating a skilled workforce and designing quality training programmes. The CEEW–NRDC–SCGJ analysis finds that 45,000 workers could be employed in solar module manufacturing in India as part of the 100 GW solar target. However, policy certainty, government support, and lowering the cost of finance will be key to sustaining the growth of India’s renewable energy markets, and in turn the renewable energy workforce.
Renewable jobs growth also slowed down in 2019 because of a 20% decline in capacity additions in the solar and wind market. The new Goods and Services Tax (GST), imposition of the safeguard duty, payment delays by power distribution companies, lack of finance, and infrastructure constraints were key reasons behind the slowdown.
“Strategic thinking is needed to grow sustainable jobs in India and around the world – especially supporting decentralized renewable energy,” said Anjali Jaiswal, Senior Director with NRDC. “The 100,000 clean jobs happening now are vital to powering India’s economic growth and meeting climate targets.”
The CEEW-NRDC-SCGJ analysis also highlights that installing rooftop solar and other decentralized renewable energy technologies 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. The study also highlighted 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. Dr Praveen Saxena, CEO of the Skill Council for Green Jobs, added, “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 study also urges 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.