As India faces an increase in fuel demand*, volatility in energy security, and the adverse impacts of climate change, renewable energy is not an option but a compulsion. Effective and applied clean energy solutions, including large biogas plant, and decentralized biogas units in dense urban areas can help solve these challenges, while decreasing energy gaps, improving jobs, and reducing toxic pollution along with clean surrounding.
Inline to the Government of India’s recent initiative – Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT), 5000 large scale Bio-CNG plant in the coming five years are to be set up. Analyzing the jobs to be created in the Biogas sector along with the related skills required in every phase of a Biogas project to reach the 5000 plants by end of 2023 suggests that India would need nearly more than 75000 manpower including skilled plant designers, site engineers, and semi and low-skilled technicians for construction and other involved operational activities. Apart from this many more would be needed to keep the momentum of small and medium scale biogas segments growing.
Indian Biogas Association conducted a survey amongst its members to assess the key skills required in the various phases of biogas projects, i.e., from manufacturing to O&M. The survey aimed to capture the nature of skills required, the amount of training required per skill type and matching the skills required with the available training. The survey included an appropriate mix of industry stakeholders from across the spectrum of the biogas industry.
Analyzing the jobs to be created in the biogas sector along with the related skills required in every phase of a Biogas project to reach the targeted 5000 large scale biogas plants suggests that India would need nearly 12,000 skilled plant design and site engineers and approximately 25,000 semi and low-skilled technicians for construction. As many as 5000 highly skilled workers would be needed annually by 2023 to carry out annual and ongoing performance data monitoring of such plants. An additional 25000 workers are estimated to be needed annually by 2023 to carry out low-skill operation and maintenance functions for the multitude of Biogas projects at such a scale.
Above table maps the received survey responses in the form of skill sets required for identified roles in the industry along with the tentative training requirement.
• High skilled: engineering or advanced degree required.
• Semi-skilled: technical qualifications or vocational skills required
• Low-skilled: no formal education required
Furthermore, the aforementioned survey also addressed the rating of the skills considered essentially needed for each phase of a Biogas project. The responses received are as portrayed underneath:
For manufacturing, 84% of the surveyed participants indicated to emphasize on Biofertilizer enhancement to make it marketable, next to it was manufacturing engineering and machine operators with almost 79% respondents’ nod to put these as a priority skillset. This would correspond to training for advanced biogas programs. Around 60% per cent of respondents have listed R&D as one of the important skill-set. Management and other administrative issues didn’t get much emphasise from the respondents. A special course focusing on such skills were the need of the respondents.
In the business development phase, around 90% considered Biofertilizer sell as-one of the very important issue along with 84% of the respondents listing tracking of market opportunities as a priority skill. 58% of respondents recognized the ability to select the right site location and 63% emphasizing on finance model and liasioning with the bank as a priority skill. Contracts and off-take agreements along with Government approval, permits and clearances are also considered as priority skill, getting consideration from 74% and 47% of the respondents.
Upon interacting with some of the on-field technicians and operators working in a biogas plant, they emphasised on the importance of being trained on operational know-how (like SOP, O&M schedules, std. troubleshooting practices, data logging, associated HAZARD and HAZOP, dos and fonts, etc.). Prior hands-on training for handling specific equipment upon field visit to existing plants, interaction with experienced operational personnel was also wished by the interviewed operator to ensure full understanding and associated implications of the installed system.
Particularly, in-house operators or outsourced local engineering companies, whomsoever will take care of the maintenance of the systems, should be also trained in the type of maintenance activities that have to be carried out periodically, or regularly as the case may be. More importantly, effective training for the plant operators should be provided in an easy-to-understand format and should occur at regular intervals.
To help resolve the skill gaps, the Government of India established the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) in 2014 as the country’s overarching skill development agency. Some part of small scale biogas is considered in it but still, a large void exists from bridging the required skill perspective. Similarly, Biogas Development and Training Centers (BDTCs) are supported for providing technical training and monitoring & evaluation and preparation of technical booklets/ guidelines/ material support for quality implementation of biogas programme in addition to technology development by Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. BDTC prime area still remains the small scale biogas plants.
Many universities have started offering postgraduate courses specifically focused on various renewables, however very few optional courses specific to biogas. Several training institutes in India have started aligning courses under Skill India and Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) to befit the growth of interest in renewables energy, albeit rudimentary so far as biogas industry is concerned. Whilst, it is true that existing education and training courses and apprenticeships are the base towards meeting the main skills needs of the industry, more appropriate channels to discourse specialised skill sets needs for the industry needs to be thought of.
Summarizing, it looks very likely that if India can bridge the existing gap to fulfil its dream of 5000 large scale biogas plants by the end of 2023; the result would not only streamline renewables with the special focus of biogas but also ensure the development of future biogas plants with higher efficiency and reliability.