India, being at a pivotal junction of its growth story, heavily depends on energy sources like coal and oil to meet its power demands. The demand for energy is bound to go up. A recent report from British Petroleum (BP) Energy projects India to become “the world’s greatest growth market of energy by late 2040”
“Symbiotic to improved living standards” the report explained that the growth in energy demands would grow till a point where India's share of global demand rises to 11% in 2040 from 5% in 2016, accounting for the ‘second largest share’ of the BRIC countries.
Although it remains a projection, the quantum of the shift in energy demands is quite significant In order to meet such growing demands the energy mix of coal, oil, and gas, and green renewable sources such as solar and wind power would all face a large demand, with a portion of renewable energy growth finding a larger share.
As an option that has far-reaching implication on climate change, the rising demand for non-fossil based fuels is a welcoming sign. So its potential to positively impact job growth. Reports suggest that creating jobs in the sector will be a part of the organized part of the jobs market that can help many have access to proper benefits of it like stable income and healthcare benefits. Due to the nature of jobs creation within the renewable energy sector, rural and women participation can also be given an impetus, while also positively impacting poverty rates.
The potential of job creation to remains significant. In a report released by ILO earlier this May titled the World Employment and Social Outlook 2018: Greening with jobs, the growing use of renewable energy could lead to the creation of around 3 lakh jobs domestically. The report cited estimates by The Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) and the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) which state that based on surveys of solar and wind companies, in order to meet its global commitment (generating 175 gigawatts of electricity from renewable sources), around 3,00,000 workers will be employed in the solar and wind energy sectors by 2022.
The commitment that was part of the Paris Accord on climate change would mean that India would soon have to look at shifting the burden to meet its energy demands to renewable resources. As countries like China, which has witnessed a constant growth rate partly fuelled by large coal usage, begin moving away from because of its polluting effects, India might need to follow suit.
But how can India effectively tap into the latent opportunity that the renewable power sector holds?
Following China’s shift towards using renewable energy and it means to create jobs provides a good example. Over the last couple of years, China has been steadily reducing its dependence on coal and oil and ramped up the use of green energy sources. Despite still being one of the largest consumers of coal in the world, it remains one of the largest investors in green energy. Aimed at improving its rapidly degrading environment the commitment has also helped it to create newer avenues of employment slowly.
According to Dr. Yuan Xu, a professor of energy and sustainability at the Chinese University of Hong Kong points the creation of jobs within the sector has primarily been driven by secondary changes brought by in the economy due to such a shift. As a result of their efforts towards updating their technologies, creating smarter grids and bringing in an ‘innovation intensive culture,’ around 2.5 million people work in their solar power sector.
(For an in-depth picture of how the country intends to do this, check here)
This can be a good beginning point for India. Given the different socioeconomic nature of the two countries, a direct replication of the model would prove difficult. Discounting household demand, many heavy industries today greatly depend upon coal-generated electricity; industries which today contribute significantly to the nation's growth. But efforts into building a renewable sector have to become more streamlined to leverage the opportunity that shifting to renewable energy sources provide. And India has already begun to exhibit the advantages of such an investment, According to Indeed report, the job search in the solar energy sector has gone up by 76 percent.
But there still remain structural barriers to overcome. To push for renewable energy growth in place of coal and oil usage, these needs to be a holistic and balanced approach. An India spends report highlights how financial resources still remain a challenge for the sector to grow. When it comes to creating jobs within the sector, the skills gap still remains a barrier.
The ILO report mentioned earlier also noted that India in order to reach the projected number of jobs, will have to commit to making environmental sustainability a central objective of its development strategy and also set up a comprehensive framework for skills development for green transition at the national level, targeting key sectors. To facilitate this, institutions like the Skills Council for Green Jobs was set up for the purpose in 2015. Post the identification of skills needed to be employed in the renewable sectors, 26 new Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) courses have been developed for occupations ranging from water treatment plant helper to solar project manager and improved cooking stove installer. But many such initiatives are yet to have any significant impact.
Ensuring a steady increase in the usage of renewable power helps the government to create a new avenue of job creation. As the renewable sector grow to fill a larger percentage of the energy mix of the country, its’ bound to create more jobs in areas where there none before. And signs of this already being in motions are slowly emerging. But a structured approach that helps the sector grow, while also promoting the demand of renewable energy.