As India aims to take the lead in green hydrogen manufacturing and emerge as an export hub, energy companies -- both private and state-run-- are reinforcing their workforce to execute their plans in the nascent sector.
Energy companies are seeking talent in green hydrogen technology as the alternative fuel gains traction amid the country’s goal of achieving net-zero carbon emission targets. As the technology evolves rapidly, countries are in race to produce green hydrogen at the most economical price.
Green hydrogen – a universal, light and highly reactive fuel – is generated through a process known as electrolysis. The method uses electrical current to separate the hydrogen from oxygen in water. If this electricity is obtained from renewable sources, it will not entail emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
In India, state-run Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL), which was among the first to announce its entry into green hydrogen, said it had conventional knowledge related to green hydrogen, but needs workforce competency for emerging technologies.
Sukhmal Jain, Director-Marketing, BPCL, told Moneycontrol: “That's why we are recruiting middl-level talent in our teams who can really bring in the latest from this field. We have declared our aim to achieve 'net zero' in Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions by the year 2040. For this, we have to leverage the latest technology and innovative solutions. And that is where the role of the new talent comes. And that's how we are strengthening our R&D (Research and Development) team, to make it truly relevant to the current times and for the future.”
BPCL, among other energy companies, is looking for candidates for its Corporate R&D Centre in the area of Carbon Capture and Green Hydrogen.,
Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the National Hydrogen Mission from the Red Fort on Independence Day in 2021. The announcement excited energy companies and even before the government announced its policy, entities like Indian Oil Corporation Ltd, Reliance Industries Ltd and Larsen & Toubro Ltd, and clean energy companies like ReNew announced their entry into the sector.
In January this year, the Indian government approved the National Green Hydrogen Mission with an initial outlay of Rs 19,744 crore. The announcement made the government’s intent and push clear, and companies are speeding up their plans; building teams is a priority.
Of the allocated sum, Rs 17,490 crore (88.6 percent) has been earmarked solely for incentives on the production of green hydrogen and manufacturing of electrolysers.
Other than that, Rs 1,466 crore will be devoted to pilot projects, Rs 400 crore for R&D, and Rs 388 crore towards other mission components.
Prime Minister Modi said on Februry 6 during the India Energy Week that the country was taking the lead in the green hydrogen space and would replace grey hydrogen to increase its share to 25 percent in the next five years.
“In a bid to decarbonize the planet, companies are betting big on green jobs with a specific focus on sustainable energy sources like green hydrogen. With an estimated production target of about 5 million tonnes by 2030, the Indian government is zeroing in on becoming the hub of green hydrogen production in the time to come,” said Sachin Alug, Chief Executive Officer of NLB Services, a workforce solutions provider.
Upskilling to bridge the gap
Top executives say that upskilling is the way for building teams for green hydrogen as the fuel is relatively new and employees require training.
Shrikant Madhav Vaidya, Chairman of Indian Oil, told Moneycontrol: “Reskilling is one of the ways by which we are going ahead and we have got a pool of people coming in every year. So we have changed the way we are training them, not only in the conventional business, but also in the new business. And as Indian Oil, you're aware, we only take (in employees) at the frontline level. So it becomes all the more important for us to train them at a very young age so that they are there when the economies of scale happen in these new forms of energy. We will have a readymade talent pool available.”
State-run Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) have been allocated Rs 30,000 crore in the Union Budget for energy transition.
The allocation is to be spent on the green energy capital expenditure of oil companies. It will also go towards augmenting India’s strategic petroleum reserves, Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Hardeep Singh Puri said.
Head hunters and Human Resource experts believe that while companies are looking to build a talent pool for new initiatives like green hydrogen, there is a mismatch in demand and supply of talent and they may have to resort to upskilling. Additionally, it may also help to keep costs under check as hiring good talent for a new technology may come at a premium.
Sumit Kumar, Chief Business Officer, TeamLease Degree Apprenticeship, said companies are paying more for green skills, but are balancing it by upskilling their existing workforce.
“Everything boils down to supply and demand. We know when there is supply scarcity, there is a cost factor. They (companies) said they are paying a premium price for green skills. But at the same time, what they have realized is it's a long-drawn project for them.”
Kumar said companies were adopting hiring new talent and also upskilling employees to keep costs under check as hiring skilled talent may come at a 25-30 percent premium on existing pay packages. He added: “There's a lot of investment and trust which is there on the upskilling of the workers.”
HR experts told Moneycontrol that they had seen a significant increase in green jobs in January 2023.
According to Foundit (previously known as Monster APAC & ME), there has been an increase of 64 percent in green jobs in January 2023 compared to December 2022. The industrial products and machinery sector has seen 17 percent growth in green jobs over the same period, added Foundit.
Experts believe companies would prioritise engineering development for green hydrogen with a focus on technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT).
“To accelerate the process of achieving the desired outcome (production of green hydrogen), engineering development along with AI and IoT will play a significant role. Adapting the digital twin model could be a good strategy as it helps gain insights by visualization, analysis and prediction for upcoming roadblocks and providing optimization behavior for the same,” said Sekhar Garisa, CEO, Foundit.
Conventional energy companies such as big oil refining public sector undertakings (PSUs), which are a major part of India’s journey into the world of renewable energy, are also extensively working on building teams for the renewables sector.
BPCL has built a separate vertical for renewable energy which is headed by Shelly Abraham. Abraham told Moneycontrol in an interview on Febrary 6 that the green hydrogen projects of the company would be executed by refineries, but the planning and coordination would be done at a central level.
Sukla Mistry, who took over as the first woman functional director on the board of Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) earlier this month, will be overseeing the company’s energy transition plans, including green hydrogen projects.