Creating A Solar Army: Training Workforce to Support India's Renewable Energy Targets

Solar panels in RJ2.png

Guest Post by Morgan Capilla, India Initiative MAP Fellow, and Meredith Connolly, Climate & Energy Attorney from NRDC with inputs from Kanika Chawla, Junior Research Associate, Council on Energy, Environment and Water

India's renewable energy industry is growing at a rapid pace, with the solar and wind sectors experiencing tremendous capacity addition. Ensuring that the domestic workforce is equipped with the necessary skills is critical to the country's plans of installing a mammoth 175 gigawatts GW of renewable energy by 2022. It also resonates with Prime Minister Modi's priority of creating jobs and a manufacturing base in India. Through efforts such as the Sector Skill Council for Green Jobs, Skill India, and Make in India, the central government is putting forth numerous skill development initiatives to boost clean energy development.

India's installed solar energy capacity recently surpassed 4 GW, positioning India among the top ten global leaders in solar energy. The central government formalized a fivefold increase in its National Solar Mission, targeting a whopping 100 GW by 2022. Currently the world's fifth largest wind energy producer, India is also aiming to achieve 60 GW of wind installations by the same year. According to a study by NRDC and the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), deploying this amount of wind and solar energy could generate over 1 million jobs . As demand for a skilled renewable energy labor market increases, policy support is needed to help create a skilled workforce in order to sustain this renewable energy growth. A range of initiatives are being proposed to bolster the training and skill development infrastructure across India so the country can successfully achieve its twin objectives of clean energy development and employment generation.

Industrial Training Institutions: Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled plans to train 50,000 Indian citizens, often referred to as a solar army, in solar energy services to support the National Solar Mission's goals. Training courses will be offered throughout India's numerous Industrial Training Institutions (ITIs), where the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) is currently working to incorporate clean energy curricula. With nearly 12,000 ITIs located across India, these institutions could make renewable energy training programs more accessible to citizens.

Sector Skill Council for Green Jobs: MNRE, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), and the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) took a significant step to enhance renewable energy skill development by creating the Sector Skill Council for Green Jobs (SSCGJ). Introduced in May 2015, SSCGJ will create training curricula for occupations within the clean energy market. In addition to helping create training programs, SSCGJ will also offer training opportunities to citizens. During its first year in effect, SSCGJ aims to provide training to 1,500 renewable energy teachers. Additionally, the council will work to authorize 60 renewable energy training organizations and prepare over 1 million citizens for employment in the renewable energy sector.

Draft National Renewable Energy Act: In another significant stride towards furthering clean energy skill development in India, MNRE proposed the National Renewable Energy Act in the summer of 2015. The Renewable Energy Act lays out a comprehensive policy framework to support growth in India's renewable energy sector, directly addressing the domestic manufacturing and skill improvements required to sustain this growth. The Act seeks to integrate renewable energy education into academic and vocational institutions across India.

National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (NPSDE): The government of India is also enacting a variety of policies to improve India's broader skilled labor force. Within these overarching policies, government officials are making specific provisions to support the renewable energy workforce. Earlier this year, for example, India announced the National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (NPSDE), a comprehensive policy approach to strengthen India's skilled workforce. Two prominent features of NPSDE include the Skill India and Make in India campaigns.

The Skill India initiative aims to engage Indian youth in quality training programs and standardize skill certification to effectively meet India's national missions. The program incentivizes skill certification by offering cash rewards for youth who complete certification programs. The program is projected to invest Rs. 1,500 crores to train 2.4 million youth throughout India's various employment sectors, including renewable energy.

Make in India seeks to fortify India's domestic manufacturing industry by attracting investments, enhancing manufacturing infrastructure, and improving skill capacity in the Indian labor force. The campaign focuses on 25 industries in India, including the renewable energy sector.

Through these numerous skill development initiatives, the Indian government is demonstrating commitment to meeting the demands of the burgeoning renewable energy sector by creating a talented and capable workforce. As the renewable energy industry continues to mature with the support of skilled workers, India has the opportunity to establish itself as a global leader in quality and reliable clean energy services.

Over the coming months, NRDC and CEEW will be analyzing the availability and gaps in work force and skills requirement of solar and wind energy sectors. We will be conducting detailed industry interviews, coupled with an assessment of available training programs to identify industry trainings needs. We would also update the NRDC-CEEW analysis of job creation from the renewable energy targets in light of recently announced annual targets for renewable energy capacity. Over the coming weeks we will come back with further updates on skills and training programs as our industry survey and research progresses.