Which co-benefits go along with the transition to renewable energies in South Africa?
- Renewable energies can create up to 145.000 jobs.
- Renewable energies can bring economic prosperity to marginalised communities.
- South African households can save up to R13 billion by solar PV self-consumption.
- South Africa can save up to R141 billion in health costs by 2050.
The global transition to renewable sources of energy is in full swing. That means change but it can also bring significant benefits – on many different levels. The social and economic opportunities of clean energy sources have been subject of current research carried out by the COBENEFITS project at IASS in Potsdam Germany, in close cooperation with CSIR and ministries in South Africa. The studies show that a transition to renewables would have a positive impact for the people in South Africa.
Future skills and job creation through renewable energy
South Africa has an abundance of renewable energy resources. This, combined with the recent drop in technology costs and the need for new power generation as coal power plants reach retirement, provides an opportunity for the country to decarbonise its electricity sector. Managing this process will open up new opportunities for current coal sector employees and other job seekers. South Africa can significantly boost employment by increasing the share of renewables. Employment can be expected to increase by an additional 40 % in the period 2018 to 2030, accounting for 580,000 job years.
Jobs in renewable power generation are concentrated in the services, construction and manufacturing sectors. However, employment opportunities are created in almost all sectors – including the mining sector, which experiences a net increase in employment despite job losses in coal mining.
Economic prosperity for marginalised communities through renewable energy in South Africa
South Africa’s renewable energy procurement policy is globally unique. It also focusses on projects that are primarily located in rural communities, frequently categorised as “marginalised communities”. These marginalised communities can benefit regarding socio-economic development and enterprise development. More than 3 000 local enterprises in marginalised communities can be supported until the year 2050. In the same time frame, 10 000 local jobs can be created in marginalised communities. These developments can also have an impact on education: Up to 30 000 individuals in marginalised communities can benefit from access to education-related programmes.
Consumer savings through solar PV self-consumption in South Africa
South Africa has a tremendous potential for rooftop solar PV. In the metropolitan municipalities alone, rooftop solar PV has an economic potential of 15 GW between now and 2030. But not only does solar energy revolutionise the energy system, it also affects the consumer savings positively. South African households and businesses can save money by investing in solar: annual savings for the residential sector alone sum up to around R12.8 billion. The studies show that Small-scale PV systems for self-consumption have already started to become economically viable for both residential and commercial customers. It is technically and economically feasible to install more than 11 GW of solar PV on residential rooftops in the metropolitan municipalities of South Africa by 2030.
Improving health and reducing costs
Air pollution, primarily from coal-fired power plants, is one of the main impacts that the energy sector has on the environment and human health. These pollutants have many negative impacts, of which those of greatest concern include heart disease, lung cancer, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (WHO, 2016). In South Africa, up to 44 million people are exposed to air pollution from coal power plants. Health costs related to coal emissions will peak in 2022, at up to R45 billion in that year alone. As many as 2080 premature deaths annually were predicted due to air pollution from power plants in South Africa. Health costs can be reduced significantly by increasing the share of renewables. In absolute terms, up to R12.7 billion (upper estimate) and at least R3.8 billion (lower estimate) will be unburdened from health costs by the year 2035.
Not only would South Africa benefit from a transition to a low-carbon economy. Similar studies have been carried out in Vietnam, Turkey, Mexico and India. With positive effects: in India for example, more than 3.2 million people can be employed in the renewable energy sector by 2050. The renewable energy sector could employ five times more people by 2050 than the entire Indian fossil-fuel sector employs today. Some rural, remote areas in Vietnam do not have electricity access, yet. Renewable energy in form of off-grid technologies are a cheap way to provide those areas with electricity. The studies show that investments in renewables do not only help achieving climate goals but they have a positive impact on health, jobs, and local economies worldwide.
Author: This article has been produced by Phoebe Koester from IASS Postdam.
IASS/CSIR. Economic prosperity for marginalised communities through renewable energy in South Africa. Potsdam/Pretoria: IASS/CSIR, 2019.
IASS/CSIR. Improving health and reducing costs through renewable energy in South Africa. Potsdam/Pretoria: IASS/CSIR, 2019.
IASS/CSIR Consumer savings through solar PV self-consumption in South Africa. Potsdam/Pretoria: IASS/CSIR, 2019.
IASS/CSIR. Future skills and job creation through renewable energy in South Africa. Potsdam/Pretoria: IASS/CSIR, 2019.
IASS/ GreenID. Electricity access and local value creation for the un-electrified population in Vietnam. Potsdam/Hanoi: IASS/ GreenID, 2019.
IASS/TERI. Future skills and job creation with renewable energy in India. Assessing the co-benefits of decarbonising the power sector. Potsdam/New Delhi: IASS/TERI, 2019.
WHO, World Health Organization (2016): International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems 10th Revision. http://apps.who.int/classifications/icd10/browse/2016/en