South Africa’s Just Energy Transition to Create More Jobs Than It Will Destroy
Reskilling and Upskilling Are Key Elements of a Just Transition
The transition of South Africa’s economy from fossil fuels to renewable energy will create more jobs than it will eliminate in fossil fuel value chains, according to energy industry representatives who spoke at the “Youth Dialogue on the Just Transition” webinar in March. However, young people need to be equipped with the skills required to participate in the renewable energy industry, including establishing careers and businesses in nascent value chains. Reskilling and upskilling of existing workers are essential elements of a just energy transition to prepare them for new opportunities in emerging industries.
35,000 Jobs Will Be Created on a Like-for-Like Replacement Basis
Research conducted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research suggests that, based on estimates from the Integrated Resource Plan 2019, South Africa could add a net 35,000 jobs to the economy in the new energy sector industry, but job timing and location pose challenges. For example, Mpumalanga, which is responsible for much of the country’s coal-fired power, is not included in the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme. The closure of power plants and the opening of opportunities in the renewable energy industry must also be timed to avoid job loss without alternative employment opportunities.
Socioeconomic Growth Must Be Considered in Planning
South Africa not only needs to transition to a low-carbon economy, but also needs to address its high unemployment rate and the issue of inequality. Despite the creation of new jobs in renewable energy, only like-for-like replacements would still leave 33% of the adult population unemployed. Economic diversification options in areas negatively affected by the transition and communication about new job opportunities are necessary to address socioeconomic challenges.
Skills Development Is Essential
Skills development is essential to implement a just energy transition. There must be an evaluation of skills in all industries and sectors affected by the transition to ensure that the country cultivates and harnesses the necessary skills. There are also opportunities for job creation and business development in the demand side and energy efficiency components of the just energy transition, which present low-hanging fruit for providing training for youths. Furthermore, donor funding can facilitate the expansion of energy efficiency in public buildings and create job opportunities for youth.
Government Needs to Ensure a Just Energy Transition
The South African government is developing monitoring mechanisms to measure the impact on jobs and communities arising from the energy transition. However, it must create opportunities for enterprise development and job creation in a range of industries to ensure that the transition is just from a social and employment point of view.
The just energy transition in South Africa must consider the environmental, economic, and social aspects to be considered just. Reskilling and upskilling existing workers, imparting necessary skills to young workers and assessing opportunities in energy efficiency components are essential. The government needs to ensure that opportunities are created for enterprise development and job creation for the transition to be called just.