What career opportunities are opening up in climate tech for India's engineers? - India Renewable Energy Consulting – Solar, Biomass, Wind, Cleantech
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Engineers – especially really good engineers – are a rather interesting breed. Many of them consider their profession to be far more than just work – they consider it a calling.

And a good many of them strongly feel that they are the ones capable solving the world’s major challenges.

Well, they now have the biggest challenge to solve – climate change.

Indian engineer scenario

India graduates about 1.5 million engineering students every year – one of the highest in the world.

Cumulatively, there must be over 20 million engineering professionals in India currently.

Outside of the roughly 4 million empoyed in the IT sector, the rest of the engineering professionals are distributed over a wide variety of sectors and functions, with less than 1% of them currently employed in climate tech firms or roles.

By 2030, this could be 10-15% of total, and by 2050, much higher.

We are talking about a few million engineers employed in climate tech within the next decade, from less than two hundred thousand right now.

If you are an engineer, you might really want to know what roles are opening up for these professionals that results in such a hectic expansion of opportunities?

India will see an explosion in climate tech & climate action

A recent estimate put India’s total renewable energy sector employment in 2022 at 1.3 lakhs, which is expected to increase to about 10 lakhs by 2030 – an impressive 30% CAGR for eight long years, and further on to about 3.2 million by 2050, a healthy 6% CAGR for 20 years.

By comparison, India’s fossil fuel sector currently employs about 4 lakh people – about 250,000 in coal and about 140,000 in oil & gas, and while the number employed in the coal sector might decrease, the number for oil & gas could increase over the next 10 years, keeping the total employed almost unchanged by 2030.

Thus, while the fossil fuel industry in India currently employs about 3 times as many people as the renewable energy sector, by 2030, the equation will be almost reversed, and a lot further so by 2050!

That’s just renewable energy. Climate tech (which is perhaps about 10 times as large as renewable energy alone), could employ almost ten times the number, so we are talking about a total climate tech employment in the range of 10 million by 2030 – a pretty massive growth.

What does this explosive climate sector employment mean for engineering careers?

In the initial stages (2022-2030 period), a large proportion of these jobs will be for those from engineering and science backgrounds, though as low carbon and climate-aligned products, services and solutions become mainstream, expect almost every profession – and I mean every – to have a good dose of low carbon in it.

For now, however, climate tech is majorly about engineering & technology. A review of the decarbonization avenues listed by our team at Clixoo show almost 90% of the avenues have a large dose of engineering or science in them – all the way from mechanical engineering to agricultural sciences, with pretty much every major engineering/science discipline in between. 

Almost every engineering and science discipline has the potential to provide emissions reductions solutions, and this also includes relatively niche disciplines like aerospace engineering, naval engineering, industrial engineering etc. And there’s a reason why climate tech will touch every engineering & science stream.

Climate tech is not only renewable energy (solar, wind, bio-energy, hydro power, geothermal…), and it not even only sustainable energy (which is renewable energy + energy efficiency + energy storage). Climate tech goes beyond energy and into waste management, sustainable mobility, sustainable agriculture, managing large carbon sinks and even beyond science and into climate finance and social sciences. I’m once again providing the link to the comprehensive list of decarbonization avenues we have listed at Clixoo that tells you just what I have mentioned.

Over the last ten years, I have been asked a few dozen times by science and engineering students what cleantech and cleantech careers were all about. My answer has been the same always – cleantech is not new tech; it is an extension of engineering, sciences and technologies that we already use, but tweaked to provide clean energy, clean environment and sustainability benefits. (See also my LinkedIn post of a review of a Bill Gates book where I have shared similar thoughts). 

The same reasoning can be used to understand the scope for cleantech and climate tech careers. Many emerging career opportunities in climate tech might not require entirely new engineering or sciences education. There are of course exceptions to this rule, but such domains are quite few – in most cases, an engineer can start contributing to a related climate tech domain by upgrading his skills through a few, well-chosen courses or training programs.

For engineering and science students those interested in climate careers, I’d recommend that they look up emerging opportunities in climate action that are closely related to their engineering discipline. I did a reasonable amount of search online, but could not find anyone who had provided such a list, so I thought I would kick that off. Here’s a table that provides a prominent career opportunities available for different engineering disciplines. The list is certainly not exhaustive, but it should give you a good enough idea of what climate tech has in store for engineering and science careers.

I hope you find the list useful.

Engineering disciplineProminent career opportunities
Mechanical engineeringWind power plantsHeat pumpsMechanical storage such as compressed air, pumped hydro storage and gravity based storageEmerging concepts such as wind powered marine transportAdvanced automotive propulsionLow carbon ICE vehiclesHVAC efficiencyMechanical recycling
Electrical engineeringSolar PV power plantsWind power plantsBatteriesPower grid & smart grid
Electronics engineeringSolar invertersElectric vehicle chargingBattery management systemsPower electronics
Civil & construction engineeringSolar PV power plantsWind power plantsGreen buildingsLow carbon construction materialsConstruction for water conservation
Chemical engineeringCO2 capture & utilizationDevelopment of catalystsBiomass to liquid through thermochemical processesGreen chemicals synthesis & productionChemical recycling
BiotechnologyPlant based foodBiofuels including biogasReducing livestock CO2 emissions
RoboticsSolar PV power plant O&MEV charging
Computer science/software engineeringAlmost every clean energy & climate action domain has a significant amount of software / digital component.To know more, see a section we have at Clixoo termed Digital for Decarbonization.
Material sciencesSolar PV cellsWind turbine bladesMaterials for heat storage
Mining & metallurgical engineeringMaterials for batteries – Li, Nickel, Cadmium
Agricultural sciencesBio-energyBiofuelsEnergy cropsManagement of large carbon sinks such as permafrost & wetlands (marshlands, peatlands) 
Ocean engineeringOcean sequestration of CO2 through kelps, other algaeOcean CO2 storage
Geological engineeringCO2 capture & storageGeothermal energy

Originally published at Ask Narsi

About Narasimhan Santhanam (Narsi)

Narsi, a Director at EAI, Co-founded one of India's first climate tech consulting firm in 2008.

Since then, he has assisted over 250 Indian and International firms, across many climate tech domain Solar, Bio-energy, Green hydrogen, E-Mobility, Green Chemicals.

Narsi works closely with senior and top management corporates and helps then devise strategy and go-to-market plans to benefit from the fast growing Indian Climate tech market.

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