According to Mercom India Research, India has achieved a milestone 20 GW in cumulative solar installations to date. 20 GW was the initial goal set up for 2022 by the National Solar Mission, which has been reached four years ahead of time. This demonstrates the commitment by the new government, which is working hard to achieve the revised target of 100 GW solar by 2022. It took eight years to achieve the total capacity and it comes at a time when protectionist measures threaten to slow industry activity.
A surge of interest in jobs in the renewable energy sector in India
In another study by Indeed, a global job site, there has been a surge of interest in jobs in the renewable energy sector in India, with the solar energy sector leading with an increase of 76% in the number of job searches between October 2014 and October 2017. With the introduction of the Central Government’s Scheme for the Development of Solar Parks in December 2014, various parts of India have seen the installation of solar plants, making the solar energy sector account for one of the highest generation capacities in the Indian electricity grid.
Presently, with the Central Government’s focus on renewable energy as a key aspect of its agenda, the Indian industry is at the forefront in adopting and promoting the latest energy efficient tools and technologies. This bodes well for the ecology and the economy, and with a structured approach to policy implementation, the sector holds the potential to emerge as the foremost sunrise industry in the country.
Substantial increase in solar power generation
In recent years, India’s increasing efforts towards the expansion of renewable energy have led to a substantial increase in solar power generation, through the setting up of several solar parks and solar power projects. In 2017, India saw its solar power generation capacity cross 21.5 billion units (BU) of electricity. At the same time, there has been an increase in job searches for solar design engineers by 404%, solar project engineers by 332% and solar electrical engineers by 169% between October 2014 and October 2017.
Incidentally, the wind energy sector, which is largely complementary to solar in India, saw only a 28% increase in the number of job searches during the same time period.
Sashi Kumar, Managing Director, Indeed India, said, “India has witnessed substantial growth in the renewable energy sector since 2014, which has led to the rise in the number of job seekers looking for work opportunities in the field. India has also taken the lead in demonstrating its commitment to the environment, with initiatives and policies such as the International Solar Alliance (ISA), which was founded in 2016 towards the promotion and development of solar technologies, especially to poor and remote regions.”
Initiatives such as the Solar Cities Programme, the launch of an Indian satellite to monitor greenhouse gases, and the Indian Network for Climate Change Assessment (INCCA) have opened doors for employment for skilled professionals in India. With the increased participation of women in the renewable energy sector, India can safely hope to achieve the projected target of employing over 300,000 people in the sector by 2022.
According to Mercom’s India Solar Project Tracker, the utility-scale cumulative installations total for India now stands at ~18.4 GW, with rooftop solar accounting for another ~1.6 GW. For the first time, solar was the top source of new power capacity additions in India during calendar year 2017, with preliminary figures gathered by Mercom showing that solar installations reached ~9.6 GW and accounted for 45 percent of total capacity additions.
Protectionist government policies to increase costs and uncertainty
The top state for solar installations was Telangana, followed by Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Rajasthan. India’s rooftop solar sector also witnessed steady growth last year alongside the rise in grid-connected utility-scale solar. Rooftop solar accounts for ~1.6 GW of the 20 GW of capacity installed so far, and could be bolstered by a new Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) policy designed to further its growth.
MNRE recently announced a new program that would provide distribution companies (DISCOMs) incentives for commissioning rooftop solar projects. The effectiveness of the program remains to be seen. Even with the new MNRE initiative, the pace of overall solar installations is likely to be less impressive in 2018 as several protectionist government policies appear poised to increase costs and uncertainty.
“The government’s revised solar installation target of 100 GW by 2022 has recently been clashing with Prime Minister Modi’s “Make in India” Initiative to promote domestic manufacturing. The recently announced 70 percent preliminary safeguard duty recommendation, the ongoing anti-dumping case, and a 7.85 percent port duty on imported modules are together creating an atmosphere of regulatory uncertainty that is taking a toll on the industry and slowing down installation activity,” Raj Prabhu, CEO of Mercom Capital Group, told media.
“Private solar companies in India have gained vital experience over the years and are looking for the government to create an environment conducive for growth and remove the policy uncertainties that are currently plaguing the industry,” added Prabhu.