'There exists a huge potential for employment as India braces to meet its 100 GW solar target by 2022,' says Kunal Chandra, Managing Director, Prinso in an interview with SOLAR TODAY. Jobs will grow as Independent Power Producers (IPPs), module and component manufacturers and Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC) companies grow their business. There is a lot of help coming from financial institutions as banks are setting up separate departments for catering to the renewable energy sector.
Solar sector has seen a renewed focus over the last few years and with just four years to go [by 2022] for the target of 100 GW, what kind of employment opportunities do we see in the sector?
The solar sector in India has been growing at a steady pace, but there will be a need for a drastic boost to achieve the ambitious target of 100 GW by 2022. The growth of the solar sector has given employment opportunities across the board, both directly and indirectly, and spread across urban as well as rural areas. With more solar being deployed, we will need more manpower to cater to the demand of setting up utility and rooftop solar plants, and also operations and maintenance companies to manage these assets for their life cycle of 25 years.
Which are the core segments that will see the creation of jobs?
Jobs will be created through pure play solar companies as well as components manufacturers, installers and financial institutions. IPPs are expanding their teams as they increase their portfolios and need to keep adding manpower to maintain their existing plants wherein they require skilled as well as unskilled labourers. EPC companies and system installers are coming up in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities as the demand for solar spreads. Component manufacturers are also scaling up their production to meet the demand coming in from the solar sector, which is helping them increase capacity utilisation, which means more jobs. For the solar sector to grow, there needs to be a lot of help coming in from financial institutions and we are seeing banks set up separate departments for catering to the renewable energy sector.
As India has strong irradiation across regions, do we see specific types of industries come up in specific regions? Please elaborate on this.
As India is blessed with good irradiation across the country, the potential for solar power generation is immense. There will be a lot of opportunities for ancillaries to cater at regional level as some items like steel, cement etc., which are required for setting up large-scale solar plants help investors save on transport time and cost. Solar is being deployed across the country and there are a number of system installers that are coming up and operating in specific regions.
Since electricity is a state subject, what kind of challenges do we see in the adoption of solar power and in the creation of jobs?
Since most DISCOMs are financially weak, the payments are frequently being delayed and that is a cause of major concern for investors. Employment is, of course, linked to the growth of the sector and the power ministry needs to ensure that investors get the return on investment and keep them interested to invest in utility-scale plants.
There have also been cases where state DISCOMs have tried to renegotiate contracts after they are being executed, which is not good, as this also reduces investor confidence and in turn impacts capacity addition.
Do you think open access, net metering and more and more residences adopting rooftop solar electricity will lead to the creation of jobs and capacity within the sector?
Yes, when more tools are introduced by the government, more solar power will be deployed, which will directly increase the number of jobs. Some states have been very quick and forthcoming in pushing open access and net metering, while other states have not been as quick to act. There are several obstacles and delays that still plague full-fledged deployment of rooftop solar but the cost of setting up a solar plant has come down drastically, which helps rooftop solar in attracting investment.
What is the outlook beyond 2022?
There is already a target beyond the 100 GW by 2022, but to achieve it there are too many factors that need to fall in place. The cost of solar has already come down drastically and competes with the conventional sources of power even without any subsidies and this trend is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. All across the world, deployment of solar power is increasing and it is the same with India. When we look at new capacity additions for power plants, renewables contribute a major share in the pie. Solar power is a reliable source and has been tried and tested through its life cycle. We will continue to see growth in the solar sector and there is already a road map in place for up to 2030.
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