• Go Green

TVET colleges contribute to the renewable energy revolution in South Africa

New subject integrated into national curriculum

South Africa enjoys some of the best sunshine in the world all year round and could be the next photovoltaic superstar. In addition, the country has substantial wind potential, especially along the coastal areas of the Western and Eastern Cape.  Yet, South Africa's indigenous energy resource base is dominated by coal with around 77% of South Africa's primary energy needs being provided by coal. ESKOM is the country’s electricity utility and generates approximately 95% of the electricity used in South Africa and approximately 45% of the electricity used in Africa, making it the largest producer of electricity in Africa and one of the top seven electricity utilities in the world. However, with the demand for electricity rapidly growing, demand has now exceeded available supply capacity with catastrophic results: load shedding will be the order of the day and South Africans will face steep tariff increases. In light of this, renewable energy as well as a move towards a greener economy has become part of South Africa’s development strategy since 2009.  

South Africa’s government signed the “Green Economy Accord” in 2011 and thereby committed itself to, amongst other things, reducing its reliance on coal down to 65% by 2030 and increasing its renewable energy output to 3725MW to expand the energy generation capacity of the country. Also, it has committed itself to investing in the green economy, particularly in renewable energy, and nearly 300,000 new jobs could be created in South Africa by 2020 in sectors related to climate and the environment.

With the increase in renewable energy technology, South Africa now needs to focus on skills development in renewable energy technologies, as currently the country is faced with a vast shortage of skilled labour in this sector. Developing and offering subjects on renewable energy at varsity level and adding new qualifications geared towards the renewable energy sector is the first step to overcoming this obstacle.

To address the skills shortage, The Skills for Green Jobs (S4GJ) Programme, together with the South African Departments of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and Science and Technology (DST) jointly developed and implemented a number of activities: A new NC(V) optional subject called Renewable Energy Technologies (RET) has been developed, lecturer training took place to educate lecturers on the renewable energy curriculum and student textbooks as well as lecturer guides have been developed. The subject falls under the Electrical Infrastructure Construction (EIC) Programme and is placed within already registered qualifications: National Certificate (Vocational) levels 2, 3 and 4. It has been offered from January 2015 onwards and takes 3 years to complete.

The Renewable Energy Technologies (RET) subject is an important and critical cross-cutting subject for many technical NC(V) programmes, particularly for the EIC programme, as the subject introduces students to the basic concepts and fundamental principles of renewable energy technologies including:

  1. (i) Photovoltaic (PV) systems
  2. (ii) Solar water heating systems, and
  3. (iii) Wind power, hydrogen and fuel cell technology, as well as eMobility and batteries.

The subject outline includes further introduction to renewable energy resources and energy efficiency, information and lessons on safety and topics on system components, experiments and applications. It covers a substantial portion of the practical knowledge component of all relevant renewable energy technologies and creates an interest in- and guides students towards possible career pathways in relevant RET sectors.

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