India's Untold Story: Solar and Wind Projects Create Jobs and Clean Energy

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As India celebrates its 67th Independence Day this week, the country can also celebrate its clean energy opportunities as solar, wind and other renewable energy projects expand throughout India. This week, the Indian government announced a $7.9 billion investment to double its transmission capacity – designed to increase access to power from wind and solar projects. For example, India’s installed solar energy has jumped from a mere 17 megawatts in 2010, when India’s National Solar Mission was announced, to over 1.7 gigawatts today. Not only do these clean energy projects increase India’s energy supply, they also create much needed jobs.


Grid-connected concentrated solar power project under construction in India. Photo used with permission.

The Indian government and businesses around the country are making significant investments in renewable resources. The investment in transmission capacity and the next phase of the National Solar Mission are examples policies to drive clean energy development. The motivations for these investments, in part, are to continue to power India’s rapid economic growth and increase energy access by providing modern electricity to the near 400 million people in India without access to modern electricity.   

As India’s economy grows and develops, its energy consumption likewise is increasing rapidly: it increased 64 percent from 2001-02 to 2011-12 and is projected to grow an additional 72 percent by 2021-22, according to the Indian Planning Commission. India’s current energy supply, primarily made up of fossil fuels, cannot keep up with growing demand, as evidenced by chronic power cuts. India also needs large scale job creation, a topic that will surely gain attention given upcoming elections and regional statehood discussions.

Despite India’s flourishing renewable energy market, the economic and employment benefits of these clean energy technologies and projects are not reported. In fact, much of the discussion around renewable energy has been devoid of the number of jobs that have been created by new solar and wind energy projects. During Phase 1 of the Solar Mission for example, the vast majority of companies did not report the number of jobs created as a result of their new projects. 

Renewable energy technologies are more labor-intensive than more mechanized fossil fuel technologies, meaning there is a greater opportunity to create domestic jobs through the market’s growth. Clean energy projects also create a ripple throughout the supply chain and has other economic benefits for the local community. Publicizing job creation, in addition to environmental and energy access benefits, strengthens the economic case for clean energy policies and builds public support for these initiatives. Businesses and stakeholders should seize the opportunity to tell this side of the economic story.

To support India’s burgeoning renewable energy ecosystem, NRDC and the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) are striving to bolster the case for clean energy by telling this story of job creation and economic benefits as we have in our earlier research. Our team is collecting information about specific solar and wind projects, including employment data, and meeting with industry stakeholders and experts to develop materials to showcase the job creation potential of clean energy projects in India.

As we delve into our review of currently available project information in India, the almost complete dearth of references to job creation numbers in press releases and announcements is telling. My colleague Bhaskar Deol recently attended SOLARCON 2013 in Bangalore, where he noted the ripe opportunity to discuss the economic benefits and jobs created from solar energy. In several other countries, business and governments regularly track job creation numbers. For example, temporary and permanent jobs created by renewable energy projects are reported in press releases and other media outlets in the United States (e.g., see here and here). NRDC’s partner organization, Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), publishes monthly reports and newsletters specifically highlighting job creation across several clean energy industries in the United States.

As India ramps up its solar installations during the second phase of its National Solar Mission, it has an opportunity to increase the well-deserved public support for this potentially-transformative energy resource. One easy way to demonstrate the local benefits of clean energy is announcing the economic benefits of new projects underway in India through job creation numbers. As India looks towards its 68th Independence Day next year, business and government leaders can take action to continue to grow renewable energy markets and create clean energy jobs to achieve greater energy independence and sustainable energy access.

Co-Authored by Meredith Connolly and Grace Gill.