Recent time witnessed Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) rising the upper tariff ceiling for its 10 GW of interstate transmission system (ISTS) connected solar photovoltaic power projects. This can be considered as a move towards the right path, factoring in lack of developer interest in recent solar projects. Although, Indian solar initiatives have earned commendation for making incredible growth trajectories (5 GW solar capacity in 2015, 10 GW in 2016 and ~24 GW in 2018), policy interventions are needed to protect and prioritize the solar industry for continued success.
Director General of Trade Remedies (DGTR) initiated Safeguard Duty investigation on import of Solar Cells, whether or not assembled in panels or modules in December 2017. The Director General of Trade Remedies in its preliminary findings recommended to impose 70% safeguard duty on imported solar cell and modules imported in India. Recently Committee of Secretaries decided to not impose Safeguard Duty based on preliminary findings and it decided to take call on duty once DGTR releases it’s final findings. However, we should evaluate the scenario that will unfold if the duty is imposed.
Safeguard Duty: A Boon or Roadblock?
Indian solar industry is growing and the consistent progress portrays the Government initiatives in a bright light. However, the industry is still at a nascent age and requires constant support in development of a favourable environment for growth. And although, protecting domestic manufacturing industry seems to be the right move (Domestic players had a market share of 13 per cent in FY15, which is estimated to decline to 7 per cent in FY18), we have to understand that blanket Safeguard duty could lead to counterproductive results.
A few years ago, Solar was considered experimental and was a niche industry in the huge sector of energy generation. It is important to note that in 1977, solar panels cost $77 per watt p. However, currently solar modules cost between $0.33-$0.36 cents/per Watt p, which identifies more than 99% fall in prices. Also In 2015, power generation from renewable sources (1,985 GW) surpassed coal based energy generation (1,951 GW). And today, Solar PV panels have garnered a huge demand, resulting in global capacity additions nearly reaching 100 GW in 2017 alone. Countries, developing and developed alike are investing more in renewable energy ($286 billion in 2016) than conventional fossil fuel ($130 billion in 2016). New technologies that support renewable energy adoption like- Battery storage systems are also getting cheaper, paving a path for renewable energy (mainly solar) to become mainstream energy source.
Although the world has accepted solar and are working towards solarisation in an collaborative effort, it is important to note that solar only generates 2% of global electricity. Which is not very impressive if solar is to replace fossil fuels quickly. Mass adoption of green energy is the only way to save our future and climate, both of which are rapidly degrading, due to continuous use of depleting reserves of fossil fuels.
Solar module is the centre of solar technology. And although there has been a considerable technological evolution in solar module development for more efficient solar energy generation, consistent growth is needed for successful transition of green energy source into mainstream energy. To win over the fossil fuel and to stay constantly viable as an energy source, the world needs to make sure that solar energy generation is consistently increased while need for space is reduced. Better cell usage, advancing junction properties, screen printing, doping are few of the many ways how energy yield maximization is assured through solar modules. Continuous advancement in cell & module technology is the only way to keep solar energy relevant in today’s fast changing world to match energy generation and usage pattern.
Global solar industry has grown immensely within last couple of years. In 2017, China added 52 GW of new solar installations, while US installed 12.5 GW, India ~6 GW, Japan 5.8 GW, Germany 2.2 GW, taking respective positions as World’s leading solar countries.
Government of India has made huge strides to solarize the country. However, efforts are sure to come up short if one of the most important component of growth ‘manpower’ is not enhanced to shoulder the new responsibilities.
It is important to note, that more than 200 million people in India still live without electricity, and since India’s solar mission is directed towards providing power for all, while benefiting from green energy transition, solar skill development efforts have to match or even surpass the solarisation goals.
Unemployment is a growing issue that is threatening to undone world’s efforts at transforming the socio-economic structure, in hopes of a better and sustainable future. And since India has 600 million people (more than half of its population) under 25 years, the country needs to make better and faster efforts at creating jobs. Fortunately solar has presented the solution with ease.
Solar industry has created 103,000 jobs in India till December 2017 and 1,017,800 jobs are expected be created within 2022. And not just in India-
- In US, solar energy is creating 13.7 jobs per million dollars spent, surpassing fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) as it creates 12.1 jobs per million spent.
- Brazil has hopes of creating 60,000 to 90,000 new jobs by the year 2018.
- European Union is expected to create +1.25 million economy-wide renewable energy jobs by 2030, reducing 40% greenhouse gas emissions.
- Mexico is expected to create +134,000 jobs in renewable energy sector by 2030.
- United Kingdom can create +70,000 net employment in renewable energy by 2030.
- Renewable energy is expected to create 24 million jobs by 2030 globally.
Therefore, it is apparent that investing in solar skill development will solve the unemployment problem, while aligning India’s solar mission with a talented resource pool to complete it.
Government Initiatives are here but So are Challenges
Government of India properly understands the requirements at hand, and they have taken initiatives to build a capable work force. The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) has worked towards to create qualification standards to create more green energy work force.
The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has also made efforts to incorporate green energy education in various formal and in-formal training outfits. MNRE has also partnered with the United States to develop Solar Energy Training Network (SETNET), to make solar training programs in India more robust.
However, there are bureaucratic hurdles that limit the interaction between training institutes and industry. This is creating a huge gap between the demand and the available skilled resources. Besides the training systems currently are more focused towards theoretical understanding of different stages of solar development and lack of practical know how.
Additionally, high training cost also stands as a road block to quicker solar skill development.
Remedy to the Problems
- Education Should Be Comprehensive: while establishing new training programs and policies, Government of India should also focus on the coursework and make sure that it is industry focused and has substantial practical training processes. Government should arrange access to domestic solar manufacturers and EPC solution providers to the students, to allow them hands on practical knowledge on various solar development processes.
- Establishing Training Institutions: Policy makers need to mandate at least one solar training institute in every state to support state wise solar growth. And locations of these institutes should be identified through advertisement to raise awareness.
- Training Standardization and Certification: Training curricula should be standardized and certified to produce skilled resources, who can be easily hired across state lines.
- Reduction of Training Cost: Due to the solar boom and world wide acceptance of solar, demand for skilled solar employees is incredibly high in India. And so is the training cost. Government needs to reduce this cost or offer flexible education loans to encourage students into selecting Solar as a career.
- Utilizing International Platforms: India’s National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE), should utilize international platforms like ISA, to get acquainted with international best practices to develop skills.
India needs 1,116,400 skilled professionals in solar manufacturing, design, construction, maintenance, business development, and commissioning to reach its 100 GW by 2022 target. And although, India has shown incredible growth in solarisation, more focus is needed to boost solar skill development to reach the targets in sight. Otherwise the country may come up short in realizing its goals, which are suspected to transform the country.
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