A decline in renewables installation in financial year 2018-19 slowed new jobs growth in India, but the outlook for employment remains bright for the next few years
Although India’s renewable energy sector has emerged as an exceptional employment generator in recent times, an unexpected fall in installing solar and wind power capacity in the fiscal year ended March 2019 slowed down the growth in new jobs.
India’s renewable energy workforce has expanded five times in the past five years. In 2019, about 100,000 workers are employed in the solar and wind industries, up from 19,800 workers in 2014, according to a report released this week by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Skill Council for Green Jobs (SCGJ).
However, the good news is tempered by a stumble in 2018-19. The report – Powering Jobs Growth with Green Energy – said 12,400 new workers were employed between April 2018 and March 2019 by utility-scale solar, rooftop solar, and wind energy projects, compared with 30,000 new workers who found employment in the previous financial year.
The jobs growth hit the brakes in 2018-19 because of a precipitous 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, the report said. “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,” it said.
Capacity addition in solar power, in particular, slumped by as much as 47% in 2018-19 to 4.81 GW, compared with the previous fiscal year, according to the India Solar Map 2019 brought our by Bridge to India. The solar sector is struggling with execution and financing challenges, including land and transmission bottlenecks, safeguard duty and increase in financing costs, the clean tech consultancy said.
Investment in India fell 16% to USD 15.4 billion in 2018, although this was the country’s second-highest annual total to date, international think tank REN21’s Renewables 2019 Global Status Report said in June. The investment decline reflected uncertainty in import tariffs and exchange rates. Investment in wind power equalled its 2016 record, at USD 7.2 billion, but investment in solar power declined 27% to USD 8.2 billion. See: Policy uncertainty hamstrings renewables growth
It is hoped that the recent slowdown is just a blip. Bridge to India said that 2018-19 was also notable for exponential surge in tenders, auctions and allocations. “54 GW of solar tenders were issued in this financial year, but only 14 GW of pipeline was added as many tenders continued to be undersubscribed or cancelled,” it said. “As on 31 March 2019, 17,887 MW of utility scale solar projects were under various stages of execution.”
India has set a target of installing 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022. The jobs report said this has the potential to create employment for over 330,000 workers in the wind and solar sectors. It means at least 230,000 additional workers between now and 2022, it said.
Creating a skilled workforce
“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,” Arunabha Ghosh, CEO, CEEW, said in a statement. “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.”
“Strategic thinking is needed to grow sustainable jobs in India and around the world, especially supporting decentralised renewable energy,” said Anjali Jaiswal, Senior Director, NRDC. “The 100,000 clean jobs happening now are vital to powering India’s economic growth and meeting climate targets.”
The jobs highlighted that installing rooftop solar and other decentralised 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,” it said. “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.”
Training skilled workers is vital to meet the increase in their demand. “Over 58,000 workers have been trained till date by the government,” said Praveen Saxena, CEO, SCGJ. “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.”
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 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.