Why we need to go green

CityPress - - News - YOLANDI GROE­NEWALD yolandi.groe­newald@city­press.co.za

As South Africa heads to­wards a low-car­bon, ecofriendly econ­omy, it will be vi­tal to grow new green in­dus­tri­al­ists.

The coun­try’s tra­di­tional em­ployer, min­ing, is bleed­ing jobs, with the Cham­ber of Mines of SA es­ti­mat­ing the sec­tor lost 47 000 jobs be­tween 2012 and 2015.

More job losses are on the hori­zon with An­glo Amer­i­can’s shock an­nounce­ment this week that it will be sell­ing its lo­cal iron ore and coal as­sets.

Es­tab­lish­ing green in­dus­tries and jobs is one way to keep the coun­try eco­nom­i­cally vi­able.

Re­search con­ducted by the In­dus­trial De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (IDC) three years ago es­ti­mated that a green econ­omy could cre­ate 98 000 di­rect jobs in the short term, 255 000 in the medium term and 462 000 in the for­mal econ­omy in the long term.

A green econ­omy in South Africa would mean the cre­ation of jobs in a va­ri­ety of fields, in­clud­ing waste man­age­ment, bio­di­ver­sity and nat­u­ral re­source man­age­ment, pub­lic trans­port, wind and so­lar en­ergy, bio­fu­els, green con­struc­tion, elec­tric cars and lithium-iron bat­ter­ies.

But money is needed to fi­nance green start-ups, train new work­ers and up­skill un­em­ployed peo­ple.

IDC in­dus­trial in­fra­struc­ture head Lizeka Mat­shekga says that “sup­port­ing com­mu­ni­ties and en­trepreneurs fi­nan­cially will con­trib­ute to­wards the de­vel­op­ment of a lo­cal skills base and pre­pare South Africa for op­por­tu­ni­ties on the rest of the con­ti­nent”. Cre­at­ing a new class of black in­dus­tri­al­ists is a big mo­ti­va­tor for the IDC, and the re­new­ables pro­gramme is the per­fect ve­hi­cle to en­cour­age green en­trepreneurs. “Sup­port for in­creased black par­tic­i­pa­tion in a sec­tor [that is tech­ni­cally risky] has cre­ated op­por­tu­ni­ties for the lo­cal man­u­fac­ture of green en­ergy com­po­nents. This has re­sulted in the cre­ation of job op­por­tu­ni­ties, par­tic­u­larly in ar­eas where eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties were sub­dued,” she said. Pri­vate sec­tor in­vest­ment in re­new­able en­ergy gen­er­a­tion will soon reach R193 bil­lion, with R19.1 bil­lion of that ear­marked for so­cioe­co­nomic de­vel­op­ment. South Africa has com­mis­sioned 92 re­new­able projects in un­der three years with the po­ten­tial to add 6 327 megawatts to the na­tional power grid.

One green en­tre­pre­neur is Heather Sonn, the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Khana En­ergy, a black-owned and con­trolled com­pany that has in­vested in the Garob Wind Farm in North­ern Cape and the East­ern Cape’s Kouga Wind Farm. She says her com­pany has in­vested in the sec­tor be­cause of its enor­mous growth po­ten­tial. “We fig­ured it would of­fer sound long-term growth prospects and al­low us to build com­pa­nies ac­cord­ing to the coun­try’s needs for job cre­ation, skills de­vel­op­ment and cre­at­ing ca­pac­ity in ar­eas that foster gross do­mes­tic prod­uct growth.”

Sonn says it is likely that the in­dus­try can get four to five times big­ger and that South Africa could have a pen­e­tra­tion rate of 20% to 40% re­new­able en­ergy by 2030.

“With new de­vel­op­ments in en­ergy stor­age and the con­ver­sion of elec­tric­ity from gas, South Africa could be­come a world-lead­ing pro­ducer of car­bon-neu­tral syn­thetic fu­els, thanks to the low cost of re­new­able en­ergy,” she says.

How­ever, large in­ter­na­tional play­ers still dom­i­nate the green space be­cause “the cash in­vest­ment re­quire­ment is huge and re­quired skills are still new to us as a coun­try”.

Sonn says she is proud­est about the pos­si­bil­ity of dream­ing of a bet­ter fu­ture through this new sec­tor. “Col­lec­tively, we can shape the fu­ture and have a pos­i­tive im­pact on our econ­omy, com­mu­ni­ties and coun­try.”

Heather Sonn

Lizeka Mat­shekga

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