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.
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: