The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has called upon the government to step up efforts to examine the number of employment opportunities that could be generated by a viable renewable energy industry in South Africa.
Speaking after a three-day energy summit in Johannesburg, the NUM’s Fred Gona said that the amount of money being spent on research on nuclear energy far surpassed the funds allocated to the development of renewable energies, such as wind, solar and hydropower.
Gona said that, while the NUM was supporting job creation in the mining industry, it believed that the renewable energy sector had “huge” job creation opportunities.
He added that employment in a renewable energy industry would also bring about fewer occupational hazards, when compared with uranium mining, for example.
The South African government has recently committed itself to building a “new industry” around nuclear power, and proposed that some 10 000 additional jobs could be created by uranium mining and beneficiation.
Job creation would firstly come from uranium mining, but the rest of the nuclear energy value chain was expected to contribute to job creation.
A recent independent study on the employment potential of renewable energy in South Africa stated that, if 15% of South Africa’s electricity came from renewable resources, 36 400 new direct jobs would be created.
It also showed that about 506 000 direct jobs could be created if a portion of the country’s energy needs were sourced from renewable energy technologies by 2020.
South African Climate Action Network coordinator Richard Worthington added that the country had to liberate its energy sector from minerals if it wanted to commit to tackling climate change.
In the 1998 Energy White paper, which was currently being reviewed, government said that it would provide focused support for the development, demonstration and implementation of renewable energy sources for both small- and large-scale applications. Immediate priorities were biomass applications, passive building design, photovoltaic applications, micro-hydro and wind-based electricity systems, and solar water heating.