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Reskilling of Coal Mine Workers Must For Transition Towards Renewable Energy: Report

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The country needs a strong action plan to reskill coal mine workers in order to protect their interests while making a transition from conventional fuel to renewable energy usage, a report said.

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India’s power sector is one of the most diversified ones in the world. The country’s thermal power generation by coal accounts for 62 per cent of its total generation capacity, a joint report of EY, SED Fund and FICCI said.

It also noted that India has been consistently working at a global level to reduce emission intensity to attain its net-zero target for 2070.

“For the transition from conventional to clean fuel-based energy generation, it will be imperative to protect the interests of coal mine workers through a holistic approach, and a strong skill action plan is needed to transition from coal to renewable energy,” said the report titled as ‘Skill action plan to fuel transition from coal to renewable energy in India’.

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Somesh Kumar, Partner and Leader, Power & Utilities, EY India, said while the ‘just transition’ theme in the Indian context is an evolving one, it is of utmost importance to plan this evolution in a strategic manner to have a smooth transition, especially for the workforce involved across the value chains of these fossil fuels.

According to the report, coal mines create over 7.25 lakh direct jobs and many more indirect jobs. With the phasing out of old coal plants and shutting down of mines, thousands of coal mine workers are at risk of disruption in livelihood in states like West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Maharashtra.

“Most of them are blue-collared workers who need to be upskilled with the newer skills of the hour. Apart from the direct workers, the entire economy of mining districts revolves around coal-related activities, and communities have relied on it for generations,” it said.

Amit Vatsyayan, Partner and Leader (Social & Skills sector), Government and Public Sector, EY India, said that skills and entrepreneurship development will play a key role in the just transition of coal mine workers.

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“The report focuses on the development of a replicable ‘just transition’ framework which can be used by districts or states to ensure that livelihood disruption of the impacted coal mine workers is minimised, and ample opportunities are provided to them. Only when the interests of the poorest and most economically vulnerable are protected, the transition may be termed as just transition,” Vatsyayan said.

Vipul Tuli, FICCI Power Committee chairman and CEO-South Asia, Sembcorp Industries, said the action plan and cost of reskilling, redeploying and rehabilitating workers from the coal sector assumes importance at a national and multilateral levels as part of India’s just energy transition.

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