India Would Need Massive New Solar Capacity to Replace 500,000 Coal Jobs
India would need to install 1,000 gigawatts of new solar capacity if it set out to replace the country’s 500,000 coal mining jobs solely with new employment in renewable energy generation, according to a new study in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
The local news report picked up one part of a wider study of coal mining jobs in India, China, Australia, and the United States, which collectively account for 70% of global coal production. There’s no indication the scope of the research extended to jobs outside electricity or energy that could become new opportunities for coal miners displaced by the transition off carbon.
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“With mounting global pressure to shift away from coal and adopt renewable energy sources, ensuring that coal miners find jobs locally in other industries is now a prerequisite,” ETEnergyWorld notes. And if all those jobs were in the power sector, they would have to be in solar, since the study identifies “a complete mismatch between areas in India suitable for wind power and areas where coal mining is currently happening today.”
That means the country would have to install nearly two gigawatts in the area of each existing coal mine to keep all the miners at work.
“Creating wind jobs is not really an option in coal mining areas in India,” said lead author Sandeep Pai, a PhD researcher at the University of British Columbia’s Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability. “However, overall, solar has the potential to replace local coal mining jobs in India.”
That would mean a 37-fold increase in solar capacity from the 27 GW India had installed as of 2018, with emphasis on the coal mining states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, West Bengal, and Telangana.
Whether or not that scale of electricity production is needed or feasible—and whether or not the replacement jobs come from solar—ETEnergyWorld’s coverage underscores the importance of a just transition to realistic, secure employment.
“At least 0.5 million coal miners working directly for Coal India and its subsidiaries. Apart from these direct jobs, there are a larger number of ‘indirect jobs’ for people who work on a contractual basis within the broader coal mining industry,” the publication states.
As well, “there are millions of people in coal mining towns who run tea stalls, shops, and grocery stores—called ‘induced jobs’—and if the coal industry declines, there would be a ripple effect and the survival of all these jobs would become difficult.”