Guest blog by Akanksha Golchha
For several years, the sole source of electricity in Santokben’s house was a 1 kW solar panel, installed on the rooftop of her house in the Fangani village of Gujarat, India. Santokben’s working hours were thus largely dependent on sunlight; as a result, the number of productive hours and income opportunities available to Santokben were limited. Not only Santokben, but thirty-five households in Fangani village were facing similar harsh conditions due to limited access to modern energy. As grid supply reached Fangani this summer, following a visit by Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) officials and the Hariyali Gram team, living conditions and livelihood opportunities have improved. Moreover, children in these households can now dedicate more time to their education as electricity is available past sunset. As a next step, NRDC and partners are focusing on converting Fangani village into a Hariyali Gram through two key interventions – (a) to scale up clean energy solutions such as community biogas plants, energy efficient appliances, and cool roofs; and (b) to increase livelihood opportunities for women entrepreneurs like Santokben through providing skills on clean energy solutions.
Identifying the right technology that suits the needs of the households is important. Poor quality solutions can leave long lasting consequences. Appropriate financing mechanisms that enable them to purchase clean technology equipment to scale up the adoption are equally important. Finally, skilling and upskilling opportunities are required to ensure proper operation, repair, and maintenance of the equipment. Focus on skilling can ensure that the owners of the equipment can operate them properly. Besides, village entrepreneurs can provide repair and maintenance services through their enterprises, and this can become an additional income source.
Skilling can be achieved through suitable training interventions – ranging from the understanding of basic troubleshooting of clean energy solutions used at the household level to becoming part of the formal workforce at the utility-scale renewable energy projects. Going forward, these skilling interventions can also play a critical role in creation of appropriate entrepreneurial or employment opportunities.
The ‘Project Surya’ launched by SEWA in partnership with ReNew Power and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is a perfect example of such interventions. Project Surya aims to train 1,000 salt farmers and equip them with suitable skills to work in the renewable energy sector, specializing in solar panels and solar pumps. NRDC is also developing a skilling manual for clean energy entrepreneurs with an objective support rural enterprises providing post sale services in the clean energy domain. The focus of this manual is women as they play critical role in developing social networks; as a result, such entrepreneurial opportunities have the multiplier effect benefitting the larger communities.
Skilling interventions take centerstage as the clean energy sector moves to posit itself as a significant employer of formal, informal, and productive use jobs. A recent assessment by NRDC and partners show the sector’s potential: meeting India’s target 500 GW of non-fossil fuel power could generate 3.4 million short and long-term jobs. By 2022-23, Distributed Renewable Energy (DRE) alone could provide as many as 210,000 informal jobs in India.
The potential of the women’s workforce is slowly unfolding. But there exists a huge demand-supply mismatch and a lot remains to be done to bring livelihoods and people to the fulcrum of the clean energy transition. Appropriate skilling interventions have the potential to empower women and enable them to own and operate clean energy solutions. A huge opportunity lies in empowering rural women in India so that they can lead the way to a clean energy transition.
Akanksha Golchha is the Clean Energy Access Lead (Consultant) with NRDC