Interview: Ritu Lal

Ritu Lal,
Senior VP & Head, Institutional Relations at Amplus Solar
 

“Renewable Energy industry is growing very rapidly, and so are the jobs”

The Renewable Energy industry is growing very rapidly, and so are the jobs in this sector. Yes, the female to male ratio is a bit low, but it is gradually improving as organisations are also looking at ways to make the workplace more equitable. I encourage women to apply for jobs in solar, as this is an exciting area to work in, with tremendous growth opportunities.
In an exclusive interaction series with women influencers in the power sector, Manu Tayal, Associate Editor, Energetica India, interacted with Ritu Lal, Senior VP & Head, Institutional Relations at Amplus Solar. Here’re some edited excerpts from that interaction:

“How has been your journey so far, being a woman, in the renewable energy industry?”

When I began my journey in the Renewable Energy industry nearly 7 years ago, I did have some initial apprehensions, but these were because I did not have any prior sectoral experience, not because of gender issues.
India’s solar story was just beginning and rooftop solar was in a nascent stage at the time. I knew I would be working on something meaningful - a commercial venture delivering savings on power costs - while contributing to the health of the environment.
The Amplus model was innovative– taking the utility scale power sale concept and adapting it for the distributed rooftop sector. Rooftop solar as a service proved to be a game changer in this segment, especially for the Commercial and Industrial customers. Amplus also grew from the four-member start-up that I had joined in March 2014 to become India’s leading distributed solar developer. It has been a very exhilarating journey, all in all.

“How do you see the role of women in the renewable energy sector with changing times?”

At the time when I started, I noticed that there were very few women in the energy industry and even fewer in the solar sector.
Some of this can be attributed to the ratio of men to women in our engineering institutes, as a lot of these jobs have their roots in engineering. Secondly, coal and petroleum, the two biggest components in the energy industry, did not traditionally employ women in larger numbers.
I personally feel that the opportunities in the sector are gender agnostic and there are no real entry barriers for anyone. Over the years, I have found a larger representation of women in the solar sector. Even within my own organisation, you will now find more women employees across all functions, including technical as well as field operations.

“What is your message for other women on joining the renewable energy industry in terms of scope/opportunities in the sector? What skill sets they require?”

The Renewable Energy industry is growing very rapidly, and so are the jobs in this sector. Yes, the female to male ratio is a bit low, but it is gradually improving as organisations are also looking at ways to make the workplace more equitable. I encourage women to apply for jobs in solar, as this is an exciting area to work in, with tremendous growth opportunities.

“How important is the role of family in maintaining a balance between office work and family life for a working woman?”

Often, in countries like India that have stringently defined roles for women in society, many talented women have had to give up on their careers, especially after motherhood. Creating a more equitable balance as well as redefining the stereotypical gender roles is the need of the hour. It is incumbent upon both, families as well as employers, to create a supportive environment that helps women navigate their careers successfully. Workplace policies that are flexible and encourage male employees to take greater responsibilities pertaining to parenting and home are also needed.

“Where did you see Indian renewable energy industry’s road towards ‘AatmNirbhar’ in next five years?”

While the idea of AatmaNirbharta is great, we also must ensure that the policy goes beyond being a mere slogan. In the energy sector, the end goal, in my opinion, should be 24x7 energy access and availability for all.

“Is the availability of right kind of skilled manpower in the Indian renewables industry a challenge? What more could be done to tap this as an opportunity for India?”

Availability of skilled manpower in Construction and Operations & Maintenance (O&M) remains a challenge. Skill development in these areas needs greater focus, especially O&M. Since Renewable Energy plants owe their performance to regular cleaning as well as preventive O&M, this sector also has the opportunity to provide long-term employment to both skilled as well as the semi-skilled workers.

“Your outlook on the present state of rooftop solar sector in India?”

The savings from rooftop solar have propelled its growth in the C&I segment. However, as the same C&I customers are responsible for the Discom revenues and cross-subsidy recoveries, Discoms have started losing from the C&I adoption of rooftop solar. This has led to major retaliatory roadblocks for C&I rooftop solar from the states desperate to protect their already distressed utilities.
However, rooftop solar need not be a tussle between Discoms and large rooftop owners. It is possible to ensure an equitable sharing of the savings realised from rooftop solar between the rooftop generator and the Discom.
It is imperative that this issue is addressed and corrected immediately, as rooftop solar is an ideal solution for a country like India, where land is expensive, and resources limited.

Interview 01/03/2021 by Manu Tayal
 
 
 
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