Women, Skills and Green Economic Growth in India

Credit: NRDC

Co-authored with Madhura Joshi

India is now the fifth largest renewable energy producer in the world. The country has the fourth largest wind energy installed capacity and fifth largest solar PV capacity. In the coming year, India is aiming even higher toward achieving its climate target of 175 renewable energy by 2022. Yet, reaching India’s target is dependent on a large, skilled workforce. Fortunately, the Skill Council for Green Jobs has just this mission. This week in New Delhi, the Skill Council is hosting the Sigma Summit: Solarizing India, where NRDC and partners are releasing a new case study focused on building clean skills with women in India.

At 27 years, the average age in India is one of the youngest in the world. With a large population of young people, employment generation is a big priority for the government and the economy. While India has one of the hottest clean energy markets in the world, the lack of skilled workers is a major challenge. A key solution to overcoming this challenge is developing education and training programs to support clean energy production.

Over 300,000 workers can be employed creating over one million job opportunities in achieving India’s solar and wind energy goals, according to recent analysis by NRDC with the Council on Energy, Environment and Water. The majority of jobs are in the solar market focused on construction and operations. In addition, a strong domestic solar module manufacturing industry could provide employment for an additional 45,000 people in India.

The Sigma Summit – Solarizing India 2019

The Sigma Summit is designed to create a platform focused on training and education programs for clean energy. The summit will include exhibits from countries around the world to showcase their talent and latest technologies. It will also provide an opportunity to share knowledge, new innovations and renewable energy applications.

The Government of India created the Skill Council for Green Jobs in 2015 to align with the National Skill Development Mission and to promote green jobs. The mission of the Skill Council is to identify the skills needed for green jobs and to develop educational and training programs to advance a green economy in India.

NRDC-SEWA Case Study and Video

With the Skill Council and the Self-Employed Women’s Association, NRDC released a new case study, “Worth their Salt: Building Skills and Improving Livelihoods of Women Salt Farmers in Gujarat through Clean Energy Solutions.” The case study highlights the training programs and improved livelihoods as part of NRDC-SEWA’s project working with women salt farmers to transition from diesel pumps to more efficient solar pumps.

The animated video below describes the NRDC-SEWA project in the salt pans of Gujarat.

The key findings of the study are:

  • Annual Income Increases: By shifting to a hybrid system based on solar and diesel, purchased on loans, agariyas or salt-farmers can increase their annual salt production and reduce, even eliminate, expenditure on diesel. Their annual net income can increase to Rs. 35,000 ($538) per saltpan—94 percent more than using diesel pumps.
  • Training Programs: SEWA’s focus on developing the necessary skills for the solar pumps has played a critical role in expanding the use of clean energy for salt-farming. SEWA launched a three-part training program: 1) create a core group of “master trainers” to support the women agariyas, who can answer on-the-ground questions about technical installation, operation, and maintenance of the solar panels and pumps; 2) master trainers instruct groups of women agariyas and their families in the use and maintenance of solar panels and pumps, training over 3,000 agariyas to date; 3) women agariyas have access to subject-specific training modules throughout the year, in addition to informational posters, videos, and pamphlets.
  • Increasing Financing: A lack of access to affordable, widely available institutional credit is major barrier in scaling off-grid renewable energy applications amongst low-income households. But replicable innovative financial solutions helped women agariyas access credit and scale the project to more than 1,700 solar-powered pumps in the Little Rann of Kutch by January 2019, and on track to reach over 15,000 pumps.
  • Economic Growth: Women agariyas use the additional income to pay for their children’s education and pursue additional income-generating activities such as running small flour mills and raising cattle; this has ensured asset building and ownership, financial inclusion, and improved social recognition of women as bread winners.
  • Health and Pollution Benefits: Solar pumps also result in health benefits by reducing agariyas’ exposure to harmful diesel pollution; SEWA-NRDC analysis shows that reducing the diesel consumption for half of the 43,000 agariya families in the LRK through solar-diesel hybrid pumps and the other half through only solar-only pumps can avoid up to 115,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per year.

Our new case study shows how women are part of India’s clean energy transformation and climate change debate. The training programs on technical solar installation and operations are essential to empowering women to make a living through clean energy. The shift to clean energy resulted in real world improvements from increased incomes, economic growth, and health and pollution benefits. 

India’s current installed renewable energy capacity is 74 GW. Much more action is needed to achieve the goal of 175 GW by 2022. Strong training and education programs to India’s emerging workforce are critical to achieving India’s clean energy targets, improving health, and fighting climate change.

"Earlier we stayed in a kutcha house and we didn’t have money to repair it. But thanks to SEWA-NRDC, we have benefited a lot from solar. It helped me send my three children to a private school. The elder son and daughter cleared high school and are now enrolled in college (under-graduate courses). I feel that the solar (pumps) should spread to everyone in the country so that they can profit from the golden sun."

–Bhavnaben Koli, Kuda village, Dhanghadhra, Gujarat, a SEWA member of several years is a third-generation salt farmer, and owner of three solar pumps

Highlighted Additional Resources

Madhura Joshi is a clean energy access and climate policy consultant with NRDC's India Program, based in New Delhi.

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