Will sunny prospects of solar sector help in creating jobs?
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New Delhi: It’s sunny days for 8Minutes, a solar energy start-up based in Delhi where Arjun Srihari is brand evangelist. An economics graduate who previously worked with a multinational company, Srihari feels that his shift to the solar sector is one of the best things to have happened to him.
“Two years into operation, we as a company are now absolutely sure about the future—both in terms of professional growth and that of the sector,” he says.
8Minutes, which helps firms and individual residents adopt solar energy, has grown from three people in 2015 to 40, and represents a sector where jobs are expected to be created in big numbers in the near future.
Sanjeev Aggarwal, founder and chief executive of Gurugram-based Amplus Energy Solutions Pvt. Ltd, a firm that specializes in providing end to end capabilities including design, engineering, procurement, construction, monitoring and maintenance for solar installations in the sector, agrees. “Currently, we have around 150 people employed directly and 500 more indirectly. Three years hence, this is expected to grow to nearly 500 direct and 1,000 indirect jobs. That’s good growth we believe,” he adds. Yet, there are no hard numbers on the jobs being created in the solar power sector.
The solar power sector in India is yet to catch up with traditional sectors or retail and consumer internet, said Rituparna Chakraborty, senior vice-president at Teamlease Services, a staffing company. She added that it is early days for the sector as a job creator, and there is still some time to go before it assumes the scale of what it is doing in countries such as the US.
According to the Solar Jobs Census 2016 by Solar Foundation, a non-profit, the sector had 260,077 solar workers in the US in 2016, 51,000 more than the number in 2015. In the US, solar sector jobs have nearly tripled since the first Solar Jobs Census was released in 2010.
Chakraborty believes since renewable energy is the future, the solar sector is in the forefront of effecting this shift and it’s not the commercial but the consumer side of the business which will create jobs.
“The demand from consumers for low-cost renewable energy will be huge going forward. Since the demand is expected to be huge, this segment will hopefully create jobs. But the question remains how soon the awareness spreads among people and whether the solar energy companies convert themselves to preferable employers. Can solar become as lucrative and as acceptable as, let’s say, the e-commerce space?” she asked.
Industry insiders, though, are optimistic. As such, India aims to grow solar power capacity from 9,012.69 megawatt (MW) as of 31 December to over 40,000MW in the next three years, creating opportunities. States like Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat are betting big on solar energy, and firms like Amplus and 8Minutes feel that efficient execution of the government’s plan will not only enhance solar power capacity but also create jobs in the sector.
So, what kind of jobs does the sector create? A casual check of leading job portals gives one a sense of what is on offer. From engineers to project managers, from liaison officers to sales and business development officers, demand is rising in the white-collar segment. In fact, all segments of labour force —unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled—have a place in this sector, says Aggarwal of Amplus.
“Both upstream and downstream (parts) of the sector will create jobs. From manufacturing of solar panels, to setting up of solar systems, power distribution and, finally, the maintenance of the set-up will need a lot of manpower,” he says.