India is rearing to reach its renewable energy targets and the trends show a promising future. This should translate to greater jobs and business opportunities for women. Globally, electricity access has been recognised as the first footstep and a precondition for socio-economic progress. According to the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) more than 1 million Full Time Equivalent (FTE) jobs could be created if India achieves its national target of 100 gigawatt (GW) of installed solar energy capacity within 2018-2022 (CEEW, 2019).Considering that India has achieved 62 per cent of the solar power target by December 2022 (62 GW of the proposed 100 GW) there should be a substantial increase in FTE jobs (CEA,2022). The numbers include scope of employment in the grid connected space as well as decentralised renewable based options such as off grid renewable energy-based power plants, and commercial, agricultural, and household renewable energy technologies for electricity and heating.
The Government of India declared the nation to shift from a power deficit to a power surplus nation. Accordingly, the focus in the Indian policy context has shifted from access issue to reliability of electricity supply. This has major implications for energy transition, climate action and socio- economic progress. While planned outages and low quality of output have decreased in some urban areas, access and reliability are still problems in the peri-urban and rural areas. In such cases, decentralised clean energy systems can deliver secure, locally sourced and environmentally sustainable solutions to urban and rural consumers. Women entrepreneurs can find areas of employment and prospective engagements in these arenas.
Prior research has identified that gendered analysis of green growth and development strategies have at least two critical shortcomings. First, women are known to have weaker access to new technologies across the world (Rosser 2005). There are unequal access issues inherent in the transition to low-carbon economies. Second, it is well established that 70 per cent of the world’s poorest (1.3 billion people) are women and children (UN Women 2014). Besides, women are poorly represented globally in sectors like construction, renewable energy, manufacturing, and public transportation that are critical to the green economy.
Sustainable Design Research Consortium supported by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, India further explored this area to understand the ground reality, ecosystem enablers and detractors; opportunities and challenges that women from marginalised communities are currently facing for a sustainable livelihood generation. It interlinks clean, reliable energy access issue to leveraging tech enabled energy transition pathways for women ecopreneurs while addressing climate change and gender inequity.
The study looked at pathways to Just Energy Transition, the socio-economic impacts of this transition on the marginalised women and the need for strategising policies for an inclusive and sustainable transition. Climate action warrants larger conversations around the economic, social, and political implications of phasing down fossil fuels, through a gendered lens. Factors such as location, value chain, skill level and gender inclusiveness affect the variation in these impacts. Hence developing focused policies and strategies would be crucial. The study focused on women in the decentralised energy sector, to strengthen a narrative for successful inclusion of women in the tech enabled clean energy sector. The decentralised energy sector seems to be poised at a very crucial position in aiding this transition involving the marginalised communities. The reason being low capital and technical know-how involved which is easy to achieve for this socio- economic segment. Follow stories of women led clusters and women entrepreneurs who are underway or gearing to leverage this opportunity.
Rosser, S. (2005). Through the lenses of feminist theory: focus on women and information technology. Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies. 26. 1-23. 10.1353/fro.2005.0015.
UN Women (2014) The World Survey on the role of women in development: gender equality and sustainable development. United Nations publication
CEEW. (2019). Financing Solar-powered Livelihoods in India: Evidence from Micro Enterprises. Council on Energy, Environment and Water Delhi.
Installed Capacity Report, (2018-2022) published by Central Electricity Authority
Sanjukta Mukherjee is the co-founder of a think and action tank Sustainable Design Research Consortium which works on climate action, circular economy, Just Transition, gender justice and human rights. She is a Green Building Assessor, IEMA accredited Environmental Lead Auditor with post – graduate qualifications in urban environmental management currently on the verge of receiving her PhD focussing on social entrepreneurship ecology building and optimisation. She can be contacted at sjm(at)optimasolutionsconsulting.com