Vanita Panchal, a 40-year-old homemaker from Dhokavada village in Gujarat, has stepped out of her home and into a new world, training to be a solar power technician with the hope of supplementing her carpenter husband’s income to give their three children a better life and education.
Like her, women across different age groups in the region are training under a recently launched initiative by Nasdaq-listed clean energy company ReNew Power, in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Self-Employed Women’s Association of India (SEWA), ‘Project Surya’. The project aims to train low-income women, many of whom are salt pan workers, to work in the renewable energy industry.
The programme will initially train 60 to 100 women in the first phase and then scale it up to a 1,000.
“We have sites in Gujarat, and we noticed most women around these sites work in the back-of-beyond areas, in challenging situations at salt pan. They get paid very little. We see a lot of opportunity in the renewable energy space; we need so many people. We need to employ people and they need employment. That’s how we came up with this project to engage more women in the sector,” Vaishali Sinha, chief sustainability officer, ReNew, told Moneycontrol.
She is quick to add that the programme is not intended to hand them jobs but to upskill them so that they can get employment in the renewable energy sector.
The three partners for the programme estimate that while currently these women save an average of Rs 10,000 in around 10 months, as a solar panel technician, they can earn up to Rs 18,000 a month.
Atul Bagai, head of India office, UNEP, said, “Evidence from around the world provides a strong case for supporting women-led renewable energy enterprises and supply chains to democratise access to electricity and build a low-carbon and resilient future. This initiative is an endeavour to leverage the unique and complementary strengths of our partners, ReNew Power and SEWA, to create strong, replicable models that empower women for climate resilience and inclusive economic growth.”
The programme, which aims to include more women in clean energy transition roles in the country, will be supported by the government’s National Skill Development Corporation. ReNew is providing financial support and familiarisation with its renewable facility in the area, while SEWA is the lead implementation partner. UNEP will be responsible for monitoring and evaluating the project.
At the Conference of the Parties, or COP26 as it is better known, in Glasgow last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised the target India had set for renewable energy capacity to 500 gigawatts (GW) by 2030, from the earlier target of 450 GW. This means India needs to add an average of 42 GW every year for the next eight years, which will need multi-billion-dollar investments that in turn will create employment.