Entrepreneurs and Skills of Women in Renewable Energy by Prof. Usha Bajpai


Women are the most integral and important part of development of any country’s economy and form the backbone for that country’s development. In India, the last census reports suggest that 48 percent of the total population consists of female. Entrepreneurship and skill go hand in hand. The process of creation is called entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is a process of actions of an entrepreneur who is a person always in search of something new and exploits such ideas into gainful opportunities by accepting the risk and uncertainty with the enterprise whereas Skills are the expertise or talent to do a job or task with the required knowledge
and readily execute it for performance. Energy is the requirement of each country and individual to fulfill their needs and demand. The nations with more energy security and sustainability are much more balanced and face less challenges regarding their development. The use of conventional energy sources like coal, petroleum etc. are polluting the environment and the major cause of Global Warming. This alarming situation demands that we urgently give emphasis to Renewable Energy and generate maximum energy using these non-conventional energy sources contributing towards green and sustainable energy. In a developing country like India where there is abundance of solar energy and there are more than 300 days throughout the year when India is blessed with solar energy. Keeping this objective in mind the National Solar Mission was launched on the 11th January, 2010 by our former Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh with a target of 20GW renewable energy by 2022. Later our current Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi revised the target to 100GW by 2020 in the union budget to mitigate climate change and generate more power using renewable energy. This initiative by our Honorable Prime Minister has unlocked the doors of Renewable Energy industry and calls for more entrepreneurs to invest in this sector. The solar technology field is attractive because it provide meaningful opportunities to build economically and environmentally sustainable societies. It is expected that the Government of India is to further revise the target upwards.
According to the reports by IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency) women are underrepresented in the clean energy sector. A close look at clean energy transitions underway around the world shows that women working in the renewable energy sector, where they comprise an average of only 32% of the total workforce, 45% of the administrative workforce, 28% of the technical workforce, and 35% of the non-technical workforce, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). While there is a tremendous potential to create employment and entrepreneurial opportunities in the clean energy sector almost everywhere in the world, there is a concern that women will become more
marginalized if gender equity policies and programs are not proactively planned and implemented in the renewable sectors. In the absence of appropriately targeted training, education, apprenticeships, employment placement, financial tools and supportive social policies, transitioning to clean energy may exacerbate existing gender inequalities. Wandee Kunchornyakong the Founder of SPCG Public Company Limited, a pioneer in Solar Farms and Solar Roof development in Thailand said that “I can bring solar power to Southeast Asia”. The company is listed on Thailand’s stock exchange, owns 36 Solar Farms and projects that sells photovoltaic (PV) electricity back to the distribution grid in Thailand is pioneered
by a women. Monique Alfr is founder of Pollinate Energy is a company of Solar Lanterns in Australia which distributes Solar Lantern through entire Middle East and European countries is also being run by a woman entrepreneur. Pollinate Energy is now in five Indian cities: Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Lucknow and Kanpur.

Indian women have also contributed significantly in the green energy sector. Prema Gopalan the co-founder of Swayam Shikshan Prayog, a non-profit which won the United Nations climate change award, this organization trains women in villages of Maharashtra and Bihar to become renewable energy entrepreneurs. Through the program, more than 1,010 women have set up businesses in which they sell solar appliances to rural households. Ajaita Shah Founder of Frontier Markets has decided to bring clean energy to Rajasthan. The company sells lowcos solar products in India and has set up around 225 retail outlets thus far. Shah has been featured in Forbes Top 30 under 30 Social Entrepreneurs. The company has sold around 20,000 products thus far and is targeting 50 million households in
the next five years. Rashneh Pardiwala is the founder of CERE (Centre for
Environmental Research and Education). The organization has created an outdoor solar-powered-lighting installation for Tata Capital, has started a carbon mapping initiative for companies such as IndusInd Bank, and is piloting its ‘Schools for Solar’ project, wherein it will assist schools to generate electricity through simple rooftop solar installations. Barefoot College located in Rajasthan teaches women of all ages (some are even grandmothers) solar engineering. The college, which is spread over 8 acres, runs entirely on solar energy. Since the course was launched, around 300 women have brought power to more than 13,000 homes in India. The
model has been copied in more than 24 countries Skill is the most important aspect for the execution of projects to bring them to the
expertise and finishing level. According to the reports published by the
International Energy Agency (IEA) and the Ministry of New and Renewable
Energy (MNRE), Government of India female workers are much more skilled and qualified to male workers. India’s rooftop solar targets represent a major opportunity for sustainable development and for women’s employment. While India has shown a strong commitment towards a clean energy transition through its renewable electricity installation target for 2022, deployment of rooftop solar technology has been slow. According to reports by IEA, women currently account for only 11% of the workforce in the companies we surveyed. Participation of women is particularly low in roles involving frequent travel and a required onsite presence at project sites. However, it is higher than the percentage of women in other energy sectors in India, such as coal, oil and gas companies, and electricity utilities.

The design and pre-construction phase, and corporate segment – which offer mostly office-based positions – have a relatively high share of female employees at 18% and 34%, respectively. The IRENA reports suggests that women represent 32% of the full-time employees of responding organizations– substantially higher than the 22% average in the global oil and gas industry. India has significant potential in the field of Bio Energy. India produces about 450-500 million tonnes of biomass per year. Biomass provides 32% of all the primary energy use in the country at present. The MNRE estimates that the potential in the short term for power from biomass in India varies from about 18,000 MW, when the scope of biomass is as traditionally defined, to a high of about 50,000 MW if one were to expand the scope of definition of biomass. According to the reports by the IEA about 52 % of the workforce which collects agricultural wastes, cow dung, etc. consist of female workers. Dr Vanita Prasad the Founder and Director of REVY Environmental Solutions which has developed a cost-effective and indigenous process of treating wastewater and releasing biogas in the process. Vanita holds patents for specific innovations in the
field of waste management and renewable energy and has had a long association with the industry as a consultant scientist while heading R&D functions of various waste management, comprises of more than 80% female correspondents. Monika Jha, Director of Cydee Technologies Pvt Ltd. generates energy saving through street lighting. She and her five member female team is passionate about solving energy crisis. Vidya Amarnath, the Director of Paterson Energy Pvt Ltd which turns plastic waste into quality fuel oil.
A Chennai-based startup, they are recycling plastic waste into plastic oil using continuous type Thermochemical Depolymerization technology. The skill development programs of renewable energy sponsored by the MNRE such as Suryamitra and Varunmitra providing technical training on Solar Photovoltaics and Solar Water Pumping emphasizes for intake of more and more femals candidates to impart training in the field of renewable energy. The women are certainly alleviating in the field of Renewable Energy throughout the globe but still there is a lot of scope for further improvement. In the absence of appropriately targeted training, education, apprenticeships, employment placement, financial tools and supportive social policies, transitioning to clean energy may exacerbate existing gender inequalities. This highlights the importance of understanding and documenting the successes women have enjoyed in this
sector, as well as the barriers they have faced. Career opportunities in the clean energy sector do exist, and they can be made more visible and accessible for women and girls. We know very little about the specific circumstances and factors that might obstruct or enable women to become entrepreneurs in clean energy.

Fortunately, this topic is slowly starting to attract attention in research and policy circles. We aim to assist these efforts to identify and understand the factors that enable or constrain women’s employment in the solar energy sector by profiling seven successful women in this sector. All are founders or co-founders of either for-profit or non-profit organizations in different parts of the world. In each case, we seek to understand how they created their companies, what factors contributed to their success and what barriers the founders faced. With the support of the Government of India, the entrepreneurship and skills of women in Renewable Energy is likely to grow further compared to the recent past.

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