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Tuesday, 08 October 2013 14:44

Working together to close the skills gap in the wind energy industry in South Africa

South Africa’s renewable energy sector has experienced explosive growth in the past few years with investments of more than US$5,5 billion in 2012, up from a meagre US$30 million in 2011 - representing an impressive increase of 20 500%..

The rapid investment growth over the past two years has made South Africa the ninth-leading destination for clean energy investment among the Group of 20 (G-20) of the world’s developed and emerging economies – after occupying the last spot in 2011 (Pew Charitable Trusts, 2013).

South Africa’s leading position has been secured through a supportive policy environment, coupled with a secure investment framework established by the Department of Energy’s (DoE) Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REI4P).

Notwithstanding the success of the programme, or perhaps because of it, there are a lot of additional expectations levelled at the renewable energy sector in South Africa, not least of which is the expectation of job creation.

The green economy is expected to generate 455 587 jobs, with at least 26% of these created in the renewable energy sector. However, given the acknowledged skills shortage in South Africa, there is a serious threat that the potential offered by the renewable energy sector will largely go unrealised.

The South African-German Energy Programme (SAGEN) and its partners, the DoE and the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI), have identified a number of key interventions to ensure that the required skills are available to service a rapidly growing renewable energy sector in general and the wind energy sector in particular.

SAGEN approach SAGEN and their cooperation partners decided to approach the challenge of skills shortages in the wind energy sector in a systematic and strategic fashion. Firstly, the skills required had to be clarified and quantified and the potential job creation in the wind energy sector investigated.

SAGEN commissioned a study on the topic in 2012, which concluded that more than 500 wind energy technicians will be required by 2015.

To expose South African decision-makers to wind energy training concepts, training centres and curricula, a study tour was organised to four wind energy training centres in Germany during 2012.

Participants included representatives from the national Departments of Energy and Higher Education and Training (DHET), as well as provincial governments of the Western and Eastern Cape. Training institutions were represented by participants from universities, as well as universities of technology and the Sector Training Authority for wind energy (MERSETA).

The exposure to a functioning wind energy training system greatly aided the finalisation and establishment of a dedicated, national wind energy technician training centre at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, planned since 2011 and supported by a number of national and provincial role-players. With a view to a fully operational training centre, SAGEN funded the training of eight future wind energy lecturers for a period of six weeks in Germany in 2013.

However, an established training centre also requires appropriate, accredited training programmes delivered by qualified trainers in a learning environment equipped with workshops, tools and machines to ensure a well-trained, highly skilled and efficient workforce is available.

SAGEN is actively participating in the process to develop an accredited wind energy technician occupational qualification within the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) recognised process. The process, under the leadership of the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority (MERSETA), will establish a registered occupation, open up training opportunities and leverage funding to implement training courses and link the industry with skilled technicians.

Recognising the urgency of trained wind energy technicians, while the measures are being implemented to establish an equipped training centre and register a training course, SAGEN facilitated the training of eleven wind energy technicians, currently employed by companies in South Africa for a period of three months in 2013 in Germany. The training course was extremely well received and a second course is being planned for early 2014.


Results achieved to date

• An agreement with CPUT to host the South African Renewable Energy Technology Centre (SARETEC) as a national training centre was concluded, an advisory board appointed and the first advisory board meeting held. Finalising the institutional home and governance of SARETEC concluded an important milestone in the establishment of the centre.

• The DHET allocated R105 million to SARETEC until 2017. Part of the funding will be used to construct a state-of-the-art, green training centre and a turbine hall to house a full-size wind energy turbine that will be used for training purposes.

• The development of the SARETEC centre is assisted by a German expert who was intimately involved in establishing wind energy training centres in Germany and China. The expertise was made available through SAGEN and SANEDI, who provided the contractual framework and resources to employ him in South Africa.

• SAGEN concluded a memorandum of understanding with Nordex, who generously donated equipment to SARETEC, including a 2,5MW wind turbine. SAGEN will cover the transportation costs of the equipment from Europe to South Africa.

• SAGEN contributed to the training of the first black female wind energy technician who will be working in the wind energy industry in South Africa. • The occupational qualification for a wind energy technician is at an advanced stage and is expected to be submitted for registration by the end of 2013.

The South African-German Energy Programme (SAGEN) is implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) is a federal enterprise that supports the German government in achieving its objectives in the field of international cooperation for sustainable development.


Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH Registered offices: Bonn and Eschborn.

GIZ Office Pretoria

PO Box 13732, Hatfield, 0028 Pretoria, South Africa

Tel: +27 12 423 5900

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