Aims and Objectives
The aim of this research was to contribute to the debate on whether NUM’s position on energy choices for the country need to be maintained or revised due to the new developments in the energy sector.
Background and Methodology
NUM is well aware that the energy policy that is being proposed by the South African government will have far reaching implications on the well-being of workers in both the energy and mining sectors. Moreover, since energy is a key input in all productive activities of the country, the effects will spread to workers across all sectors of the South African economy and by extension, to the economically vulnerable communities. The effects of the energy policy will include, but will not be limited to, job losses, increases in prices of goods and services, and general economic exclusion of citizens whose lives are at the margins of the economy. The energy sector is an employer in its own right, but it is also a catalyst for employment in all the other manufacturing sectors of the economy. Downstream, the energy sector supports employment in the mining sector by supplying coal. As such, changes in South Africa’s energy sector have far reaching implications on the employment and well-being of people and communities across the breadth and length of the country. It is, therefore, the revolutionary duty of NUM to be vigilant in engaging and coming up with an informed position on the country’s energy policy and energy mix proposals.
As part of Phase 1, an energy mix symposium for NUM members and various interest groups was organised at which facts and concerns of the Union on the energy issue were discussed. A document capturing what was discussed at the Symposium was then drafted and presented at the NUM Central Committee (CC) for discussion. Having completed Phase 1 of the energy mix project, which focused on discussions about the advantages and disadvantages of different energy sources, Phase 2 focused on South African case studies on solar, wind and nuclear energy. The aim was to understand and document employment dynamics, including the required skills, in these energy sectors in comparison with the coal sector. Data collection on the three case studies took place in Western Cape (Nuclear plant), Centurion, and Johannesburg-IPP Office (Wind plants).
These case studies sought to answer some of the following questions:
- What are the actual number of jobs that can be created by different renewable energy projects?
- Is the employment profile in the renewable and nuclear energy sectors comparable, in any way, to that in the coal sector?
- What are the specific skills requirements for each of the renewable energy projects based on empirical evidence?
- Are there any skills in the coal sector that may be relevant to the renewable and nuclear energy sectors?
- Are there specific training programmes that allow job seekers to enter into the renewable energy job market?
- To what extent is South Africa ready for the transition to renewable energy, given the implications of such a move on employment and community disruption?
The team visited Koeberg Nuclear Power Sation on the 24th April, and the Independent Power Producers Office was visited on the 29th May 2018.
Key Findings and Contribution
The information supplied by Eskom (Koeberg Power Station Office) in Cape Town shows that 1 700 members of staff are employed on a permanent basis at Koeberg, of which 46% are female. In addition to that, there are 600 people working as contractors. Many proponents of nuclear power argue that nuclear power can stimulate job creation. In addition, the study found that Koeberg is run by locals from different socio-economic backgrounds. Also, the responses from some of the Koeberg staff members indicated high levels of satisfaction with their jobs. According to those staff members, the power station has quality jobs that require highly-skilled employees in most cases. As a result, nuclear professionals earn salaries that are above the industry average.The study found that every year the Koeberg Nuclear Power Plant trains 300 individuals at the power station training centre.
The representatives at the IPP offices admitted that most of the jobs created by REIPPPPs lack longevity and are thus unsustainable in the long term. Their calculation of jobs created, in terms of job years, also created further uncertainty as to how many jobs exactly these IPPs create. A further concern was the inability to accurately establish the contribution of direct and indirect jobs created within this sector.
Phase 2 of this research project was conducted in 2018.