India’s growing renewable energy sector is likely to generate more than 330,000 new jobs over the next five years through 2022) creating opportunities to support mainly the country’s rural poor by offering an alternative to subsistence farming, according to US-based global research organisation World Resources Institute (WRI).
The Indian government is implementing a plan to set up 160,000 Megawatt (Mw) of fresh renewable energy generation capacity in the five years between 2017 and 2022 in a bid to improve energy security, enhance energy access and help mitigate climate change. The clean energy initiative can also help address poverty in rural communities by providing steady incomes, healthcare benefits and skill-building opportunities to unskilled and semi-skilled workers, WRI said in its latest report “Can Renewable Energy Jobs Help Reduce Poverty in India”.
“Wind and solar growth can be a win-win opportunity for India helping the country secure a clean energy future while tackling poverty,” said Bharath Jairaj, Director of WRI India’s energy program and the lead author of the report. “Unless decision-makers act, this growth will leave the rural poor behind, unable to attain the thousands of new jobs created. Now is the time for leaders to build a clean energy sector that delivers electricity and employment to poor communities across India,” he added.
The report also says unskilled and semi-skilled workers in rural areas face entry barriers to clean energy employment and that training programs have failed to mitigate these issues. “Renewable energy employers interviewed for the study said that unskilled workers lack the technical and soft skills needed to succeed in full-time positions. Most training institutes refuse to admit applicants without a secondary school education, locking out the 60 per cent of poor Indians who are either illiterate or received just a primary school education,” the report said.
The report also states many training programs are in urban centers, far from rural communities where most of India’s poor families live. Also, Women face unique, additional gendered challenges and household duties, childcare obligations and gender norms make it nearly impossible for them to participate in training programs.
“Even when poor Indians overcome obstacles to attend training programs, the institutes’ curricula do not often align with industry needs, making it difficult for graduates to secure good-quality jobs. In fact, we found many clean energy employers prefer to train people they hire because they believe that the training institutes fail to provide the required and relevant skills,” said Pamli Deka, Manager of WRI’s Electricity Governance Initiative and co-author of the report.
The report recommends that private sector leaders should build the capacity of unskilled and semi-skilled workers to ensure the sustainability of renewable energy projects and give rural communities a sense of ownership in off-grid projects thereby motivating local workers to maintain the programs and invest in their growth. Also, the government should create public training programs to prepare the poor and less educated people — those typically shut out from training institutes and full-time positions – for employment in the clean energy sector.