Author: Dr. Rupak Banerjee
Let’s pick up where we left off last time. The 6th largest economy in the world is currently growing at a rate of 6 – 7% annually. This in itself presents a huge opportunity to create new jobs. Add the prospect of a whole new industry opening up, and the results are lots of new jobs further feeding a strong economy. With its strong commitment to transitioning to a low carbon economy, India has in fact created the opportunity to create numerous new jobs.
Of the 326 GW of power being currently generated in India, 17.7% (57.7 GW) comes from renewable sources. Wind (power) contributes the largest to this mix, with a total production of 32 GW of power, followed closely by solar at over 12 GW of power. With the transition to a low carbon economy, and in keeping with the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), India has a target of getting to 60 GW of Wind and 100 GW of Solar. Considering that these are the two biggest growth areas, let’s take a look at the job opportunities that this growth in renewables presents us with.
A good case study to look at while understanding solar jobs is the US. In 2016, 2% of all new jobs were created in the solar sector. In the same year, India’s labor force grew by 11 million (worldbank.org). A similar growth (although ambitious) would result in 220 thousand new jobs in solar alone. Is that a number we can afford to ignore?
India currently has 9 National Power Training Institutes (NPTI) spread out across the country. The locations of each are given here. Over the past 50 years of their existence, the NPTI has trained over 140,000 personnel. This includes MBAs in Power Management, Engineers specializing in Power Engineering as well as a variety of Post Graduate Diploma. However, with the possibility of 220,000 new jobs every year, in the Solar power sector alone, it is imperative for India to invest more in its training institutes. There is a well-established spread of Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) across the country, 23 in total, which need to create more programs in power engineering with specializations in solar and wind energy.
It is important to keep in mind that this growth is not in the future but is here already. India is currently home to the largest solar plant, at Kamuthi, Tamil Nadu, producing 550 MW. The jobs that this industry is bringing with it, are new and exciting. They are also well paying technical jobs, helping to boost the middle class economy.
So what kind of jobs are we talking about. A quick search on job portals brings designations such as Business development manager (Solar), Energy analysts, energy consultants, energy engineers, solar engineers, and project officers to the forefront. You can of course tweak the search with your qualifications to see what you would qualify for specifically. Scrolling through the qualifications being sought highlights business skills, electrical engineering, power engineering, project management, and sales. In addition, there is also a growing demand in financial modeling of energy assets. Getting a foundational understanding of national and international legal challenges in energy trading, balancing both WTO norms with Climate Change demands, will also go a long way.
Although, electrical and power engineering steal the thunder in the changing jobs environment, the solar array in Kamuthi (shown above) has to be cleaned every day. This is done using robots, bringing in automation engineers, coupled with mechanical and computer scientists. These also would require highly skilled maintenance staff, which would further fuel the need for technicians with advanced diplomas as well as engineers leading these projects as well as facilitating their upkeep. There is a growing number of solar tech companies (Saurya EnerTech, Tata Solar Power, and Vikram Solar to name just a few) that are also coming in to the forefront and new graduates should keep them in mind.
In conversations about manufacturing for solar, China often steals the limelight. However, there are several manufacturers based in India, who are accelerating their production, resulting in manufacturing jobs. Indosolar, Vikram Solar, and the Waaree Group come to mind. They are manufacturing their solar panels in India providing carbon free energy and also creating jobs. As students seek admission into Colleges and Universities, they should keep in mind that the job market is shifting at a rapid pace and therefore, selecting courses and majors should be done keeping the future in mind.
Increased solar contribution to the grid also means greater fluctuations in energy production. These have to be met with improved control systems and automation in the energy production. This is only a small glimpse into the diversity of the job market that is developing as a result of the Paris Climate Accord and the resulting shift to a carbon free energy. Everyone has a role to play. From my research into solar jobs in India and how the job market is moving, it is evident that whatever you have trained in, you are probably going to be valuable in the new low carbon economy. So, whenever you are thinking of changing jobs, make sure to take a look at opportunities in Solar and more generally in renewable energy. The sector is booming and more people are needed to make the transition possible and profitable.
Here are some reference books for you to delve into: