Future skills and job creation through renewable energy in South Africa

This study analy­ses the employ­ment impacts of dif­fer­ent plans for expand­ing elec­tric­i­ty gen­er­a­tion in South Africa’s pow­er sec­tor. It presents the result­ing employ­ment effects with­in the elec­tric­i­ty sec­tor, pri­mar­i­ly focus­ing on coal and renew­able ener­gy sources. It also pro­vides an ini­tial assess­ment of the skill attain­ment lev­els required for South Africa’s ener­gy tran­si­tion, and the poten­tial for work­ers to trans­fer from the coal sec­tor to the emerg­ing renew­able ener­gy sector.




Key policy opportunities:

Pol­i­cy oppor­tu­ni­ty 1: South Africa can sig­nif­i­cant­ly boost gross employ­ment by increas­ing the share of renew­ables. With its deci­sion to scale up renew­ables by mov­ing from IRP 2016 to IRP 2018, employ­ment (mea­sured in job years) can be expect­ed to increase by an addi­tion­al 40 % in the next 10 years. There is even room for more: by fol­low­ing CSIR’s least cost path­way, this num­ber could even be doubled.

Pol­i­cy oppor­tu­ni­ty 2: Fol­low­ing the his­tor­i­cal devel­op­ment in the pow­er sec­tor with pre­dom­i­nant­ly high-skilled labour, about 70 % of jobs cre­at­ed through the shift towards renew­able ener­gy occur in the high­ly skilled groups (> Grade 12). This growth is most dis­tinct in DEA’s rapid decar­bon­i­sa­tion path­way and CSIR’s least cost path­way, both reach­ing a share of 76 % in 2050.

Pol­i­cy oppor­tu­ni­ty 3: Coal-sec­tor-based employ­ment is expect­ed to decline regard­less of a shift in pow­er gen­er­a­tion towards renew­able ener­gy sources, with 35 – 40% decline in employ­ment between 2020 and 2050. How­ev­er, the tran­si­tion process should be man­aged polit­i­cal­ly, to mit­i­gate neg­a­tive impacts on affect­ed work­ers and communities.



Year of pub­li­ca­tion: 2019

Edi­tors: Ayo­de­ji Okun­lo­la, David Jacobs, Ntomb­i­futhi Ntuli, Ruan Fourie, Sylvia Bor­bonus, Lau­ra Nagel and Sebas­t­ian Hel­gen­berg­er – IASS Pots­dam, CSIR and IET

Tech­ni­cal imple­men­ta­tion: Faaiqa Hart­ley, Jesse Bur­ton, Guy Cun­liffe, Bryce McCall, Tara Cae­tano, Ntomb­i­futhi Ntuli, Ruan Fourie and Lehl­o­gono­lo Chiloane – Ener­gy Research Cen­tre Uni­ver­si­ty of Capetown (ERC UCT), Capetown South Africa and Coun­cil for Sci­en­tif­ic and Indus­tri­al Research (CSIR), Pre­to­ria South Africa

Sug­gest­ed cita­tion: IASS/CSIR. Future skills and job cre­ation through renew­able ener­gy in South Africa. Assess­ing the co-ben­e­fits of decar­bon­is­ing the pow­er sec­tor. Potsdam/Pretoria: IASS/CSIR, 2019.

DOI: 10.2312/iass.2019.009


This study is part of a 2019 series of four stud­ies assess­ing the co-ben­e­fits of decar­bon­is­ing the pow­er sec­tor in South Africa, edit­ed by IASS and CSIR: