Make in India conference logo harnesses solar power. Â© Make in India
Momentum is building as India moves toward meeting its climate commitments and continues the rapid transformation into a global solar energy hub. India has pledged to install an ambitious 100 gigawatts (GW) of solar energy and 60 GW of wind energy by 2022. With the ink just dry on India's launch of an International Solar Alliance (ISA) of more than 120 solar-rich countries at the December 2015 Paris climate negotiations, the ISA has already met twice to start facilitating widespread deployment of solar power. To continue solar market growth, Prime Minister Modi is inaugurating the week-long "Make in India" conference in Mumbai tomorrow, with a focus on boosting national manufacturing and renewable energy capabilities.
As India faces rising energy demands, threats to energy security, and the impacts of climate change, renewable energy offers a critical solution. Innovative clean energy solutions, including large solar parks and rooftop solar panels in dense urban areas, can help solve these daunting challenges, while increasing energy access, creating jobs, and reducing toxic pollution. By the Government of India's own estimates, a $100 billion investment and a strong policy framework are needed to stimulate immense growth of solar and wind energy markets.
This report follows prior NRDC and CEEW analysis that shows solar and wind renewable energy projects have created nearly 79,000 full time equivalent (FTE) jobs as of November 2015. The analysis also shows that as many as 1 million FTE jobs could be created if India achieves its target of 100 GW of installed solar energy by 2022. Similarly, approximately 183,500 FTE jobs would be generated if India were to reach the target of 60 GW of wind energy capacity by 2022.
Recognizing the vast number of jobs that a scaled up clean energy market would create, the Government of India has formed a Skill Council on Green Jobs and introduced several domestic initiatives such as Skill India that support manufacturing, job creation and skill development. Highlighting the government's prioritization of job creation initiatives, ministries have recently been directed to explicitly include the employment generation potential of all new proposals presented to the Cabinet.
30 kWp Boond-Mynergy solar rooftop installation at Jesus and Mary College in New Delhi, India. Â© Bhaskar Deol, NRDC
Growing Need for Skilled Solar Workers
Given the large employment generation potential of solar and wind in India, the report finds that a significant proportion of the Indian workforce would need to be trained with the necessary skills to support the market. The NRDC-CEEW report serves to expand upon existing clean jobs assessments, to take stock of the current scenario of solar PV and wind skills and training programs in India, and address the question of matching available jobs with availability of skills - both for project installation and manufacturing. Looking ahead, given India is on the path of achieving 160 GW cumulative of solar and wind installed capacity, this report provides insights on the steps that the Government of India and industry could take to facilitate improved training programs, which could create the requisite skilled workforce for these sectors to thrive.
A variety of skilled workers across the solar project value chain are needed to achieve India's targeted 100 GW ofâ¨ solar by 2022. The new report includes NRDC and CEEW analysis of the jobs created in the solar PV sector along with the related skills required in every phase of a solar project, estimating that India would need nearly 210,800 skilled plant design and site engineers and approximately 624,600 semi-and low- skilled technicians for construction, most of whom would be needed to achieve the targeted 40 GW rooftop solar capacity addition. As many as 81,000 highly skilled workers would be needed by 2022 to carry out annual and ongoing performance data monitoring of solar projects totaling 100 GW. An additional 182,400 workers would be neededâ¨ by 2022 to carry out low-skill operation and maintenance functions for the numerous solar rooftop and utility scale projects. These projections do not include jobs created in the manufacturing sector, another significant jobs opportunity.
Key Findings and Recommendations
NRDC and CEEW developed the report's findings and recommendations based on a survey of 40 solar companies in India during 2015, as well as stakeholder consultations and roundtable discussions with industry and government representatives such as the Skill Council for Green Jobs (SCGJ), the National Solar Energy Federation of India (NSEFI) and the National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE). The recommendations aim to strengthen supportive policies and programs to train the staggering number of employees needed to realize India's solar potential.
- FINDING: Unavailability of appropriately skilled manpowerâ¨- especially for construction and commissioning - has been identified as one of the most prominent challenges in hiring required personnel. The Skill Council for Green Jobs has also identified this existing gap for skilled construction and commissioning labor and are developing plans to address the gap.
RECOMMENDATION: Robust skill training programs focused on clean energy projects should be expanded across the country. Policymakers should consider establishing at least one prominent solar training institute in each region projected to be a hub for major solar activity (e.g., Gujarat, Rajasthan, Karnataka).
- FINDING: Long distances from training institutes (measured by the variable "proximity to training institute") was identified as a barrier to finding skilled personnel bothâ¨in the survey and in the roundtables held with solar companies. Geographical gaps in the locations of training institutes makes local skill training challenging.
RECOMMENDATION: The locations of training institutes should be mapped to identify the geographical gaps, and new and expanding training programs should prioritize geographical diversity. Additionally, mobile training courses in which the trainers move from location to location should be considered to bridge this gap.
- FINDING: Some of the skills most challenging to find are not the most technical skills, rather they are basic construction and commissioning skills.
RECOMMENDATION: In order for new or expanded training programs to be most responsive to industry needs, they should target the skills most difficult to find and hire for, even if those skills are not the most difficult or technical skills to acquire (which is a common focus for technical training programs).
- FINDING: Most respondents fill the existing gap of hiring skilled personnel by providing in-house training programs. For example, developers, EPC companies and manufacturers impart special in-house training for PV plant design engineering and PV construction management.
RECOMMENDATION: Explore how the IT or building construction sector approaches this common issue.â¨If there is a need for training standardization, explore whether the National Occupational Standards (NOSs) and Qualification Packs (QPs) could be expanded for new clean energy training programs.
- FINDING: The biggest challenges facing existing solar training programs in India are that the quality of current programs is poor and thus not match industry needs, according to respondents.
RECOMMENDATION: There is a clear need for improved training and certification programs which are accessible to workers of varying backgrounds and skillsets across states. For example, renewable energy training clusters could be located near ongoing solar energy projects. MNRE's newly formed Skill Council for Green Jobs should consider these gaps when formulating future training programs to scale solar and wind energy projects.
- FINDING: India's solar industry currently lacks adequately skilled personnel, and may benefit from employing workers from conventional labor markets with relevant skill sets.
RECOMMENDATION: Solar and wind stakeholders should seek employees in existing traditional fields to provide overlapping skills. Training institutes could offer targeted courses or corporate training programs to fill in gaps to enable this skill transfer. With the large number of skilled employers needed in the clean energy field, this approach could help fill the gap and transform the market quickly.
- FINDING: Intergovernmental coordination through the International Solar Alliance (ISA) framework would be helpful and could be leveraged to address domestic challenges such as the skill gap in India's solar workforce.
RECOMMENDATION: India's National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE), through the ISA, could help set up training programs using international best practices. Utilizing this international common platform and technology like the Knowledge e-Portal could help achieve consistency in training programs for the solar workforce.
With continued strong leadership through the ISA, Make in India and strong skill development initiatives, India can facilitate the needed scaling up of the renewable energy sector to sustainably propel development and mitigate climate change's worst impacts.
Scale of Skilled Workers Needed to Achieve India's Solar Targets
A press release about the report is available here.
Meredith Connolly is a climate and energy policy attorney at NRDC.