As students contemplate their next step in their careers for 2020, the energy sector could offer employment opportunities.
Barry Bredenkamp, general manager for Energy Efficiency at the South African National Energy Development Institute (Sanedi), believes this is the case as South Africa renews efforts to create alternative energy sources.
He is also of the opinion that there is a significant opportunity for the country’s energy sector to catalyse the growth and development of the economy, particularly in renewable energy sector and in energy efficiency.
According to the Irena Renewable Energy and Jobs Annual Review 2018, the widespread adoption of renewable energy technologies creates employment opportunities up and down the supply chain.
Worldwide, the sector employed 11 million people at the end of 2018.
Internationally, solar photovoltaics (SPV) remained the top employer among renewable energy technologies in 2018, accounting for a third of the sector’s workflow.
“The energy sector is currently in a state of major change, with new technologies and consumer patterns and demands all helping to shape an increasingly complex energy landscape.
“It is an exciting time to be involved in the industry,” said Bredenkamp.
Bredenkamp said what the industry needs are technically trained people ranging from artisans to researchers, focused on the energy challenges of the country.
“You do not necessarily need a science, technology, engineering and math (Stem) degree to work in energy and, just as in any other rapidly growing industry, there is high demand for service providers.
“However, the renewable energy sector will foster the high-skill labour market, with 70 per cent of positions in renewable power generation being created in the highly skilled group.
“Depending on the region you would like to work in, and the growth opportunities, students might consider looking at different sectors within the industry.
“In the US, the fastest-growing profession is a wind turbine technician, and 46 per cent of large firms have hired additional workers to address issues of sustainability over the past two years.
“Jobs in the South African renewable power generation are concentrated in the services, construction and manufacturing sectors,” said Bredenkamp.
Presently only 8.8 per cent of SA’s power is generated from renewable energy sources, leaving room for much more development.
The SPV is also a growing market, as the country takes advantage of the sun’s power to provide hot water to homes and electricity to off-grid areas.
“With the SA government’s 2019 integrated resource plan, planning to build over 22GW of new wind, solar and storage capacity up to 2030, and its decision to scale up renewables, employment (measured in job-years), can be expected to increase by an additional 40 per cent in the next 10 years,” said Bredenkamp.
He explained that working in the energy industry nowadays may bring extra job satisfaction, “knowing that you’re assisting the environment”.