Clean Workplaces

India’s climate target could create over 3.5 million jobs

Anjali Jaiswal, Senior Director, India, International Program, Natural Resources Defense Council

Jobs are a major priority for India. With an average age of 27 years and the economic pressure of the global pandemic, employment is a critical need. Clean energy is an emerging opportunity to boost jobs in India and around the world. India’s stronger climate target an­n­ounced during COP26, the climate talks in Glasgow in November 2021, sets the co­urse to transform the economy and ac­hie­ve employment goals. Over 3.5 million jobs (short and long term) can be created by achieving India’s 450 GW of solar and wind energy target.

During the climate talks, India stepped forward with stronger action – committing to meeting half of its energy needs with renewable energy by 2030. This is huge. But definitely, committing to 50 per cent of India’s electricity generation from non-co­al or gas sources by 2030 is nothing short of transformative. India is a leader in clean energy, especially solar and wind energy. The country is largely on track for meeting its Paris Agreement targets. Prime Minis­ter Modi is sending a clear signal to business, industry and world leaders that India is moving forward with decarbonisation and building a clean energy economy.

India also strengthened its Paris target by committing to the following:

– Further reducing the carbon intensity of its economy to less than 45 per cent from the earlier target of 33-35 per cent, from the 2005 level by 2030;

– Increasing non-fossil energy capacity to 500 GW by 2030, formalising India’s ea­r­lier renewables’ commitment; and

– Reducing India’s total projected carbon emissions by 1 billion tonnes from now to 2030.

India also joined other nations in anno­un­cing a net zero emission target by 2070.

Solar and wind energy create jobs worldwide

Labour organisations and environmental groups are emphasising that jobs are at the heart of climate plans for every country. Nations risk “social rejection” if the di­s­cussion on just transition does not safeguard jobs and livelihoods. Over 100,000 people, including many young people, took to the streets in Scotland, demanding cli­ma­te justice with inclusive economic gro­wth that creates jobs.

Clean energy has continued to create jobs worldwide, even with pandemic-rela­ted su­pply chain disruptions. In 2020, jo­bs in the renewable energy sector grew to 12 milli­on, according to a new report by In­­ter­na­tional Renewable Energy Agency and the International Labour Organiza­ti­on. So­lar and wind jobs continue to lead, with a total of 4 million and 1.25 million jobs res­pec­ti­vely. China has 39 per cent of the cle­an en­ergy jobs around the wor­ld, followed by Br­a­zil, India, the US and the European countries.

Solar and wind job growth in India

The Natural Resources Defense Council and partners, the Council on En­ergy, Envi­ronment and Water and the Skill Council for Green Jobs have been counting the number of clean energy jobs created over the years. These numbers are re­ported in the In­dian Parliament. The most recent analysis, “India’s Expanding Clean Energy Wo­rk­force: Opportunities in the Solar and Wind Energy Sectors”, finds a tremendous opportunity for jobs in the cl­e­an energy space. The research analys­es the number of direct jobs created from so­lar and wind in 2020 as well as the em­p­loyment potential for India’s 500 GW target.

The main findings of the new research are:

  • India can create over 3.5 million jobs (short and long term) by installing 280 GW of solar and 140 GW of wind capacity, of the 500 GW non-fossil electricity generation capacity goal by 2030.
  • Wind and solar energy markets employ a workforce of 111,400 with utility-scale and rooftop solar as the dominant em­ployer with 77 per cent market share in financial year 2021.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic impacted the Indian renewables market by making it drop to 48 per cent fewer jobs in finan­ci­al ye­ar 2021, compared to financial year 2019.
  • More than 78,000 trainees have been certified under the national-level solar energy Suryamitra training programme between 2015 and July 2021.
  • The Skills Council for Green Jobs continues to integrate environmental awa­re­ne­ss into job training across skilling programmes through “Green National Oc­cupation Standards” for the workplace.

The main highlight is that in India and ar­ound the world, smaller-scale solar energy, either solar PV or distributed renewa­ble en­ergy, creates more jobs. These jobs are of­ten in rural areas and can offer em­ploy­ment to the economically disadvantaged to create better livelihoods. Looking more broadly, India’s shift to a net zero eco­nomy could contribute more than “$1 trillion in economic opportunity by 2030, and create 50 million jobs by 2070”, according to a World Economic Forum study.

Key recommendations from the analysis include a greater focus on decentralised renewable energy sources such as roof­top solar, mini- and microgrid systems, which can significantly increase employment opportunities by achieving India’s 500 GW of non-fossil fuel electricity generation capa­city target. The distributed nature of these projects makes them mo­re labour intensive than utility-scale projects, thereby increasing the number of jobs created across the project dep­loy­ment cycle. En­su­ring continuous dep­loy­ment of renewable capacities to re­duce job loss through periodic tendering, providing relaxation to continue construction activities with the necessary precautions even in special cases such as pande­mics to ensure that the tendered projects meet the timeline, and supporting investments in the sector through str­eam­lined proce­sses and payment se­curities are also important. Strong do­mes­tic manufacturing of technology co­m­­po­nents to exploit the untapped em­ployment potential and meet the requirements of the 500 GW of non-fossil fuel electricity generation ca­pacity are important for the growing infrastructure.

Achieving the clean energy job potential also requires training. Promoting rural skill development programmes helps to take the transition closer to the community. The deployment of solar parks and mini/mi­cro­­grid projects in rural areas creates em­ployment opportunities where they are needed the most. Clean energy jobs provide the opportunity to bring the energy transformation to the people to power local livelihoods.

Economic recovery begins with jobs. Employment opportunities are a priority is­sue in India today and will continue well into the future. India’s new target shows that countries can create jobs, protect he­alth and fight climate change. Econo­mic growth, job creation and energy transition are complex issues. More action is needed by the government, the industry and civil so­ciety in order to achieve our common goals to combat the climate crisis.

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