Renewable Energy in India: Creating Jobs & Enhancing Skills

Credit: Livemint

Guest blog by Madhura Joshi and Neeraj Kuldeep

Backed by strong government policies, India’s renewable energy sector has seen remarkable growth in the last few years. The installed renewable energy capacity in India has more than quadrupled in the last eight years to 71 gigawatt (GW) as of July 2018.

At RE-Invest, investors and developers announced commitments towards achieving the government’s 175 GW renewable energy target. Growth in this sector also has the potential to support Prime Minister Modi’s mission of creating jobs for the country’s youth. An employment study published in 2017 by the Council on Energy, Environment, and Water (CEEW) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) highlighted that the solar and wind energy industries have the potential of employing over 300,000 people in the next five-years.

Yet, employment generation in the renewable energy sector often receives less attention. To achieve domestic clean energy targets, maximizing India’s job-creation potential is critical.

Renewable Energy and Jobs

Renewable energy capacity now accounts for 20% of the total installed electricity generation capacity. Much of this renewable capacity has been installed in the past three years. During this phase, the workforce employed in the sector grew from 24,000 in 2015 to 94,000 as of March 2018—an increase of over 350%!

In 2017 alone, the Indian market deployed 11.6 GW of renewable energy.  As a result, about 37,000 people were employed in various functions such as plant design, construction, commissioning, and operations and maintenance. The rooftop solar segment with just 1.5 GW of installed capacity in FY 2017-18, created employment for about 20,600 people—the highest among the different renewable energy technologies. While, utility scale solar and wind sector created employment for about 15,000 and 1,000 people respectively.

Credit: CEEW-NRDC analysis (2018)

Powering Ahead to Create More Jobs

To meet the job-creation potential of the renewable energy sector, requires attention to two things—a skilled workforce, and a careful examination of the mix of renewable energy projects that are deployed. In other works, deciding on the proportion of large utility-scale projects and decentralized renewable energy projects (DRE) such as solar rooftops commissioned in the future.

Skilling Workforce

Developing a skilled workforce requires clear focus and commitment by government, industry, and key stakeholders. In 2015, the Government of India created the Skills Council for Green Jobs under the National Skill Development Mission. The objective of this Skills Council is to identify training needs of manufacturers and service providers within the green businesses sector and implement nationwide, industry-led skill and entrepreneur development initiatives.

For effective training programs, companies need to be more transparent and report the number of jobs created by companies and the kind of skills required over the course of the project. Such data is particularly important to ensure that the training programs are expanded and are successful in developing the needed skills for the market as technologies and ambitions evolve over time.

Pathways of Renewable Energy

The numbers show that decentralized renewable energy projects, such as solar roof-tops, have a lot more job creation potential than ground-mounted large utility scale projects. For instance, rooftop solar employs more people at 24.72 job-years per megawatt (MW) than other renewable projects—3.45 job-years per MW for ground-mounted solar and 1.27 jobs-years per MW for wind power.

Thus, the mix of large renewable energy and distributed renewable energy projects commissioned to meet national targets will determine the extent of employment generated. The rooftop solar market, however, has seen slow growth given technical, financial, and other challenges.

But solutions are available. For instance, CEEW has carried out a detailed analysis of how different business models can help address problems faced by different stakeholders—consumers, distribution companies, developers, and financiers. At the same time, CEEW, NRDC and partners have proposed an institutional financing mechanism—green windows—and financial tools, which can help address access to finance issues in the rooftop solar market.

The renewable energy market in India is poised to grow. The commitments from investors and developers made at RE-INVEST can help boost the path India takes in increasing its renewable capacity. Demonstrating a strong support for developing decentralized renewable energy applications, such as rooftop solar, can help harness the employment potential of the sector.

Madhura Joshi is an Energy Access, Green Jobs, and Climate Policy Consultant with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), based in New Delhi.

Neeraj Kuldeep is a Programme Associate at the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), based in New Delhi. 

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