Written by Eamonn Ryan

On 21 June, Creamer Media hosted a panel discussion on the subject Renewable Energy: What is the role of renewable energy in assisting South Africa to overcome loadshedding? Associations, Energy and Water Sector Education Training Authority (EWSETA) and South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) participated.


The discussion hosted bt Creramer Media unpacked the following questions:

  • What reforms have sparked the current rapid expansion in renewable energy and how rapidly are renewable energy solutions growing in South Africa?
  • What is the breakdown of the major demand drivers for renewable energy solutions among businesses, households and small and large-scale investments?
  • What technology platforms deal best with the variable nature of wind and solar energy sources? Is there potential for upstream manufacturing of renewable energy components in South Africa?
  • What downstream advantage will increased renewable energy use have for South African industry?

The panel consisted of:

  • Mpho Mookapele, CEO: EWSETA
  • Santosh Sukhram, Senior Technical Advisor at the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA)
  • Dr Rethabile Melamu, CEO: SAPVIA
  • James Beatty, CEO: Enpower Trading

Loadshedding has far-reaching implications for individuals and businesses alike. It disrupts daily life, eroding our ability to plan and execute tasks efficiently. Moreover, its economic consequences cannot be ignored. The Reserve Bank estimates that load shedding costs the South African economy a staggering R300 billion, equivalent to 5% of GDP, and has led to the loss of approximately 600 000 jobs. It is evident that implementing effective measures to address loadshedding is paramount, and renewable energy emerges as a crucial component of the solution.

According to the modelling conducted by the Presidential Climate Commission and the CFI, renewable energy offers a compelling pathway to cheaper electricity. Leveraging the concept of least cost energy modelling, renewables can contribute to a more affordable energy landscape in South Africa. Encouragingly, recent surveys indicate that there are nearly 60 000Mw of renewable energy projects in the pipeline, a testament to the success of the government’s renewable energy programme and evolving regulatory frameworks.

While South Africa boasts abundant natural resources for renewable energy, significant challenges persist. Access to the grid, particularly in high-resource areas like the Northern Cape and Western Cape, poses a significant obstacle to the timely integration of renewable projects. Grid capacity constraints and regulatory complexities hinder the growth of energy trading, necessitating the establishment of an internal framework. Additionally, the renewable energy sector requires a skilled workforce capable of deploying and maintaining renewable technologies at scale. Although South Africa possesses artisans and engineers, their experience in the sector often falls short, highlighting the need to address skill gaps comprehensively. To propel the sector forward, we must prioritise skill development initiatives.

The diverse panel brought a wealth of knowledge and expertise, covering various facets of the renewable energy value chain. They shared valuable insights on tackling the challenges we face. It is our collective responsibility to explore innovative strategies and seek collaborative solutions. By enhancing our skills and ensuring they align with industry requirements, we can effectively overcome obstacles and catalyse sustainable growth.

Energy & Water Sector Education Training Authority (EWSETA) LOGO + South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) Logo

Energy & Water Sector Education Training Authority (EWSETA) LOGO + South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) Logo

The panel identified the following key points: Skills gap challenges:

  • Shortage of skilled professionals in renewable energy sector.
  • Existing artisans and engineers lack specific experience required.
  • Collaboration and upskilling from traditional power industries can help bridge the gap.

The panellists’ consensus was:

  • Skills development is vital for successful renewable energy integration.
  • Loadshedding and high costs necessitate renewable energy deployment.
  • South Africa’s natural resources provide an opportunity for renewable projects.

The solutions they proposed included:

  • Strengthening partnerships.
  • Foster collaboration between industry, government and educational institutions.
  • Develop comprehensive training programmes
  • Enhancing technical education:
    – Invest in practical training programmes for engineers, technicians and artisans.
    – Ensure they acquire the necessary skills for the renewable energy sector.
  • Promoting awareness and career opportunities:
    – Increase public awareness of renewable energy benefits.
    – Highlight career opportunities within the sector to attract talent.

To overcome challenges in South Africa’s renewable energy sector, skills development initiatives are crucial. By addressing skill gaps, strengthening partnerships, enhancing technical education and promoting career opportunities, the country can build a skilled workforce for a sustainable future in renewable energy.


The skills gap in South Africa’s renewable energy sector poses significant challenges, including grid access and infrastructure development. Collaboration between industry organisations, non-profits and government institutions is key to addressing these challenges. The South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) facilitates collaboration, research and skills development initiatives.

The Energy and Water Sector Education and Training Authority (EWSETA) determines industry skill demands and upskills existing employees. A comprehensive energy skills roadmap has been developed, guiding efforts to meet sector-specific skill requirements. Strategic partnerships and collaborations clarify career pathways and attract talent from diverse backgrounds. Efforts are also focused on educating communities, particularly in rural areas, to increase awareness and promote job opportunities in renewable energy.

South Africa possesses abundant untapped wind resources. Image supplied by berlionemore_contributor on Freepik

South Africa possesses abundant untapped wind resources. Image supplied by berlionemore_contributor on Freepik