Exciting insights emerged from the ESSCI India webinar: “Clean Energy-The Sunrise Sector: Opportunity for Skilling in Solar”. Keynote speaker Ajai Chowdhry, Founder, HCL, and panel members Dr. Devraj Singh, VP, ESSCI (moderator), Ashwini-K Aggarwal, PhD, FIETE, Director, Applied Materials, Shiv Nath, MD, Waaree Energy Storage System, Anand Kumar, ED, MEC Group, and Santosh Loni, Zonal Head, Adani Skill Development Center, discussed concrete ideas to harness the emerging opportunities in the solar space.
By: Sreejani Bhattacharya
The ambitious mission set out by Hon’ble Prime Minister of India ‘One Sun One World One Grid’ aims to connect 140 countries through a common grid that will be used to transfer solar power. It encourages the phased development of a single globally connected electricity grid to leverage the multiple benefits of ever lower-cost renewable energy. The question arises as to how can India rise up and become a self-sufficient and efficient leader in the solar sector?
Opportunities in terms of employability
The solar sector is not a fringe sector anymore. It brings with it enormous amounts of opportunities in terms of employability as well. It can provide so many different types of employment opportunities like sales, logistics, managerial, customer service, project management, R&D among others.
According to a JMK Research report, for the period starting January 2020 till September 2020, about 2320 MW of solar capacity comprising 1437 MW of ground-mounted solar and 883 MW of rooftop solar was added in India.
Ajai Chowdhry, who is the keynote speaker and a pioneer in the technology space says that the Indian ESDM sector in 2015 stood at 82 million. In a year, it reached a 100 million opportunity. In terms of clean energy, solar is truly the “sunrise” sector. India is still energy deficient but the consumption has been growing at a good rate. Demand for energy is high.
Chowdhry feels, “We need to look closely to increase the domestic solar equipment manufacturing capability. then only we will be truly “Atmanirbhar.” In a way, Covid has been a wake up call. It has disrupted global supply chains and made us realise that innovative business models are required to be sustainable. India needs to become more and more self sufficient.
Geo-political environment favoring growth
Technological innovations have witnessed a tremendous growth in the solar sector. Another huge factor fuelling this growth is the geo-political environment. The biggest trigger for a rooftop solar buyer is the social influence. It is followed by effort expentance belief.
Aggarwal feels that everyone is aware of solar. He says, “It is the attitude towards solar that is the trigger. There is a need for skilled technicians so that the user experience is maximised. Industry and the human race will keep on innovating. what the customer wants is beyond innovation. We need to capture that.”
Mobility and renewable storage are going to be linked intricately
In terms of how storage and solar work together, Nath, Managing Director, Waaree Energy Storage System has an interesting take. Nath says that the world is seeing a disruptive change in electrification of mobility as well as power generation. By 2035-2040, most of the vehicles will be electric. Mobility and renewable storage are going to be linked intricately.
Recently, India Energy Storage Alliance (IESA) said that the electric vehicle (EV) market in India is expected to hit over 63 lakh unit mark per annum by 2027 as per a report by India Energy Storage Alliance (IESA). It added that EV batteries and the public charging infrastructure market in the country, demand for the batteries is also going to rise substantially over the same period.
India is 100 per cent dependent on lithium-ion and has no capacity for it. Nath says that in the future, EVs will be the largest storage medium. 80 to 90 per cent of the global storage market will be based on EV medium. After that switch, in 4 to 5 years, it will be downstream to solar as well. He adds, “There will be standalone renewables without storage in the future.
Skilling is a must
Skilling in the solar sector is also crucially important as it can generate a huge opportunity for employment. Santosh Loni, Zonal Head, Adani Skill Development Center said that there exists a gap in terms of technical skills learnt at institutions and what is needed in the industry. It should be mapped with the industry.
Clarity in government policy
In terms of EPC, the skill sets should be used in the execution of the power plant. Factors like time, cost, local issues like sourcing, policy come into the picture here. The trust between the customer and the execution company is important.Regular review mechanism is also a need of the hour.
Anand Kumar, Executive Director, MEC Group says that for greentech projects, logistics could be an issue as most of the green tech projects are in remote areas. It causes delay in transportation as warehouses don’t exist in such places. It can also lead to an increase in cost as one may have to build a warehouse there to save time in transportation. Sometimes, issues related to land boundary and acquisition of land lead to problems. The land shape can change due to this which causes rise in costs.
There should be more clarity in government policy as per Kumar The state government and central government have different policies and synchronisation is needed. The reliability of policies should increase. There should be a separate grid code and solar power standard as well.
Understand the nuances of technology and take rational decisions
To become truly Atma Nirbhar, India has to work on setting up base for lithium ion cells in the country. It also has to work to develop BMS for the storage sector. Nath adds that India can never move to solar completely. It has to exist with the conventional sources as well as compete with other non-conventional sources too.
There has been massive improvements in terms of technology in the solar sector but what is needed is how we efficiently deploy this new tech. That will determine India’s position in the solar sector. Agarwal ends by saying that the need is for engineers and technicians who understand the nuances of technology and make rational decisions.