TODAY’S STUDY: THE JOBS BONANZA IN INDIA SOLAR
Solar Power Jobs: Exploring the Employment Potential in India’s Grid-Connected Solar Market
August 2014 (Council on Energy, Environment and Water, Natural Resources Defense Council)
Solar energy projects create green jobs and provide a boost to India’s developing economy. In a country where keeping up with the growing population’s increasing energy demands is daunting, harnessing this clean and renewable energy source can help meet energy needs in a sustainable way while providing new economic opportunities.1 Solar photovoltaic (PV) is recognized as creating more jobs per unit of energy produced than any other energy source; thus it potentially represents a much needed solution to unemployment in the face of India’s burgeoning population and labor force.
Currently a dearth of data exists on jobs created by the solar energy market in India. Unlike international counterparts, Indian solar companies do not report job creation numbers in press releases. An analysis of solar job creation thus far shows that this information gap needs to be addressed to reveal the full range of benefits of a successful solar PV market in India. Employment generation numbers can encourage broad political and public support for stronger solar financing and policies.
India experienced early success with the launch of its National Solar Mission (NSM or Mission), with solar PV power’s installed capacity increasing from 17.8 megawatts (MW) in early 2010 to approximately 2,650 MW in March 2014.3
As India ramps up its solar installations at a rapid rate during the second phase of its Mission, an opportunity exists to increase public support for this potentially transformative energy resource. One easy way to demonstrate the local benefits of clean energy is to publicize job creation numbers.
This report examines available data about employment generation in the Indian solar sector and analyzes the results of an industry employment survey distributed to solar companies. This report also examines existing solar policies and draws connections to employment to make specific recommendations on how best to shape policies to leverage the employment opportunity presented by the solar PV market in India.
1. Solar energy creates employment opportunities in India. Based on our initial primary research, we estimated that the solar market generated 23,884 cumulative jobs in the solar industry from 2011 to 2014 (solely from commissioned projects currently producing electricity). The construction and commissioning phase generates the most employment for a PV project.
2. India’s policy framework has led to increased solar deployment, creating jobs and increasing energy access. Smaller projects up to 5 MW in size may provide the most employment opportunities per MW. Targeted policies and clearer objectives may be more effective to accomplish diverse goals—solar deployment, job creation domestic solar manufacturing & human resource development.
3. Companies need to support the solar market by providing their projects’ job creation numbers. By tracking and reporting solar energy jobs numbers, business and policy makers can formulate better policies and programs and demonstrate the importance of renewable energy to the local economy.
Our research and analysis confirm that solar energy projects create many local jobs in India—both one-time jobs during the pre-commissioning construction phase and permanent operations and maintenance positions over the multi-decade life of the solar plant. Supporting the growth of the solar industry and the reporting of jobs numbers by local businesses can continue this promising trend. A robust solar market is instrumental in creating jobs in India’s developing economy in addition to providing renewable energy and increasing energy access.
The Indian Solar Market: An Overview
In 2010, the Indian central government launched the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (NSM) to strive to make India a global leader in the solar energy market. The mission had multiple aims, including addressing India’s energy security challenges by creating a robust solar power market, and establishing India as a leader in the solar PV manufacturing industry.
Despite significantly growing installed solar capacity in 2013 to a total of more than 2.6 gigawatts (GW), India’s solar market is slowing.5
Delays in both NSM’s Phase 2 and state solar allocations have chilled the market. International trade disputes and anti-dumping duties on U.S. and Chinese solar imports are also contributing to the slump.6
Even with the delays, enthusiasm for the solar market remains high. Prospective project developers submitted projects worth more than 700 MW for the 250 MW allocation for the Phase 2, Batch 1 auction in late 2013. In July 2014, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) announced a second Phase II, batch 2 auction for solar PV power.7 Ambitious plans have also been announced for four mega solar plants totalling 15,000 MW, though state government concerns may stall these plans.8
The solar ecosystem created during the NSM’s inaugural phase is continuing to incubate industry growth. Following the renewed momentum created by Phase 2’s strong launch, now is the time for strong leadership to reenergize the domestic solar market and recognize the spectrum of benefits that could result from a robust solar market ecosystem—included much needed employment opportunities in India.