22 June 2017 11:17:15 IST

Career options in a clean(ing) economy

The emerging green economy is fast turning a fertile ground

For many years till 2012, Zou Yi used to work as an engineer at sites where the Chinese were building infrastructure in other countries. He has worked in places as far-flung as Pakistan, Africa and Australia. And one day, he decided he had had enough.

He quit his job, and picked up a camera. What he did then is rather unusual.

Now, Zou is not a ‘camera man’ in the usual sense of the term. He is not a professional photographer who can make a career out of taking pictures. He is more of a shutterbug, and his tryst with the lens had a different objective.

Sky’s contours

From some day in 2012, the man began taking a picture of the sky around one particular high-rise building in Beijing in the mornings, more or less at the same time. He would take several other pictures of the skies at different points in time, but the high-rise building was a regular.

A year later, he lay the pictures of that sky around that building in a matrix, where the columns were the days and rows the month of the year. In that fashion, he has developed matrices for 4 years.

When I met him in Beijing earlier this month, he unrolled a length of vinyl on which the whole set of matrices was printed — that is the picture you see here.


Then, he matched the pictures — along with several other he has of Beijing, and with several more he had his friends sent over from other Chinese cities — with the data on air pollution level that the government provided.

Pollution tracker

With this database, Zou has developed an app. The app is being tested now, but the man says if you have it in your mobile, you can take the picture of the sky at any place on the earth — say, Gurugram — and instantly, the app will compare the colour of the sky in your picture with one in Zou’s database, and tell you the level of pollution at that point (Gurugram).

What Zou has been doing for his living in the last four years is not clear to me, for he kind of evaded a direct answer to the question, but it became evident in the course of our conversation that the man intends to sell his database, hoping to get rich.

Whether the stocky Chinaman will strike pay dirt or not, only time will tell, but his experience is just another illustration of the immense possibilities that the emerging ‘green economy’ affords young entrepreneurs.

Being a rainmaker

From pollution control and energy efficiency to renewable energy generation and electric mobility, ‘green economy’ is fast becoming a rainmaker, providing limitless opportunities for entrepreneurs and job seekers. Take the following companies for example.

A start-up in Gurugram called Zenatix goes to supermarkets and tells the owners that they can reduce their energy bills by optimising the air-conditioning level to the number of customers inside, thus replacing the existing system that keeps running at a set level all the time.

Another one in Bengaluru, REConnect, is a specialist in software for predicting wind flows — an invaluable tool for wind power companies. Today, fitting wind generation prediction is a legal requirement and REConnect is in business.

While that is on the entrepreneurial side, data on the job side is also highly encouraging.

Energy jobs

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates that globally, renewable energy jobs have just crossed the 10-million mark, and is set to triple in about 15 years. And guess what? India is one of the drivers in this. Those interested may check out the IRENA report .

A recent study of the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, and National Research Development Corporation has found out that between now and 2022, the solar PV segment alone will generate 58,000 direct jobs. Now, that may not sound very big compared with IT. But remember, IT is waning. ‘Wind’ is another job provider. In 2016, it provided livelihood to 12,000 more Indians, raising the number of people employed in it to 60,500.

The year 2016 is also noteworthy for another milestone. That year, the global fleet of electric passenger cars crossed the 2-million-mark. Some of you might be aware that Indian energy minister Piyush Goyal said that government is working towards ensuring that from 2030, not a single petrol or diesel car will be sold in India. Imagine the job opportunities such a huge transition will provide.

And by the way, fossil fuels are on the backfoot and rightly so. To illustrate, Coal India Ltd used to employ 511,000 people in 2002-03; in 2015-26 it did 326,000, a fall of 36 per cent.

Thus, be it entrepreneurial or job opportunities, the emerging green economy is fast turning a fertile ground. Those who are students today would be well advised to keep a sharp eye on job and start-up opportunities floating by — you never know when a ‘Zou moment’ might occur.