Implemented properly, India’s renewable energy push could do more than just slow down global warming. It could help pull millions out of poverty, especially in rural communities.
A new study by the Washington DC-based think-tank, World Resources Institute, says that India’s renewable energy push could help tackle poverty in rural communities by providing steady incomes, healthcare benefits, and skill-building opportunities to unskilled and semi-skilled workers.
“Creating good quality renewable energy jobs that will help reduce poverty in rural, underdeveloped regions is a less considered, but crucial added benefit,” said Andrew Steer, President, World Resources Institute, which was established in 1982.
India’s target of adding 160GW of solar and wind energy capacity by 2022 is expected to generate more than 330,000 new jobs over the next five years. These jobs would be in construction, project commissioning and design, business development and operations and management.
According to a study by the New Delhi-based think tank Council on Energy, Environment and Water and the Washington Dc-based think-tank Natural Resources Defense Council, these jobs will be “full-time equivalent”. So, potentially these jobs could provide steady incomes.
“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 lead author of the report.
At last count, the solar and wind industry in India employed 151,000 people. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates the solar industry in India employs 103,000 people, including 31,000 in grid-connected and 72,000 in offgrid applications, while another 48,000 people work in the wind sector.
Globally, the renewable energy sector is emerging as a big employer. In its 2017 review, the Abu Dhabi-based intergovernmental body promoting renewable energy, IRENA, estimated that 9.8 million people were employed in the sector in 2016. The renewable energy sector is growing.
According to IRENA, globally the jobs in the sector increased by 2.8% over 2015. Most of the renewable energy jobs are in China, Brazil, United States, India, Japan, and Germany, with 62% of the renewable energy jobs located in Asia.
However the transition to a low-carbon pathway could take time, given the country’s large unmet demand for electricity and need to rapidly ramp up economic growth. “Steps are being undertaken to de-couple the Indian energy system from carbon in the long run. However, poverty eradication remains an overriding priority for us as we strive to ensure housing, electricity and food security for all,” said Environment Minister Harshvardhan in his address to heads of state, ministers other leaders at the UN-sponsored climate talks in November in Bonn.
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