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ENERGY: Renewable Energy Not Nuclear, Will Ease Youth Unemployment 


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THE SOUTHERN African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute’s (SAFCEI) youth ambassador appeals to government to leverage the growing renewable energy (RE) industry to help alleviate the high youth unemployment in the country. This follows the recent release of a renewable energy (RE) report which estimated that more than 26 000 people were employed in SA’s RE industry over the past four years, in spite of the poor support it receives from the SA government.

Siphokazi Pangalele, who is also an activist with Right2Know, believes that government’s significant support for developing nuclear energy, means that SA is missing the opportunity to create more jobs and even entrepreneurs through renewables. According to the report, from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), jobs in RE could more than double from 9.8 million in 2016 to 24 million in 2030.

“The future looks bleak for young South Africans, with more than a third of us unable to find work. It is ironic that this year’s Youth Month theme was ‘Advancing Youth Economic Empowerment’, when government’s bias toward nuclear (over renewables) is sabotaging our chances for more widespread economic empowerment,” says Pangalele.

Twenty-six year old Pangalele says that the Department of Energy’s (DoE) bias favouring nuclear, was evident when Minister Kubayi shared the budget earlier this year, with nuclear development allocated the lion’s share of the budget.

“The DoE’s bias was further reiterated when the Minister only highlighted a few hundred jobs created from nuclear while completely omitting any mention of jobs created in the RE sector. Then there’s also government and Eskom’s reluctance to sign the outstanding power purchase agreements (PPA) for private renewable projects. Another indication of government’s lack of support for RE,” she says.

“If SA’s RE sector received more support from government, this industry could have had an even bigger impact on our society by now. Instead, we are working with outdated policies, an impractical bidding process and rely too heavily on private investors to drive development in RE. These are all obstacles to innovation and employment creation in this sector,” Says Pangalele.

Pangalele says, “Decentralized RE is the future and our policies, and electricity infrastructure should be better equipped to support the RE market requirements. Government should invest in training and education, as well as upgrading to a smart energy grid for a greener, cheaper and more equitable energy future for all South Africans,” adds Pangalele.

The Department of Labour also recognises that a key benefit of RE is that it can be deployed in rural communities far from the national grid. Decentralized mini-grids and hybrid systems could promote the development of small medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs). Global trends further indicate a significant rise in employment opportunities created along the different segments of the RE value chain, with increasing requirements for individuals with diverse skill-sets and talents.

The Institute for Sustainable Futures also suggests that the RE industry could create approximately 180 000 new jobs in SA, by 2030. But this can only be achieved if government actively supports the development of the local renewable energy industry.

“SA’s youth needs government to be realistic and sensible in its energy choices, particularly as it relates to creating opportunties for the country’s youth,” adds Pangalele.


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