by Kerry Simpson, Viv Segal

New energy

Scarce skills permits a must

New artisans are needed in the renewable energy programme.

The government signed contracts at the end of last year with 28 independent power producers for the delivery of 400MW of renewable energy to the national grid, bringing an investment worth R47bn into the energy sector.

The government’s 20-year Integrated Resource Plan for renewable energy includes solar, wind, biomass and biogas projects. A second group of 19 preferred bidders has been announced for window two of the procurement programme.

 “We have limited experience of renewable energy projects in this country,” says CEO Sandra Burmeister of Landelhahni Recruitment Group.

“For this reason, virtually all the new projects are joint ventures with international companies. Yet senior executives of these partner companies are battling to get work permits.

“The quota for work permits for foreigners with ‘scarce and critical’ skills does not appear to make any provision for skills in renewable energy. In addition, tough immigration laws tend to discourage migrants.

“We need to bring people in to build these facilities. We did so for the construction of the Gautrain and the World Cup 2010 stadiums. It’s critical to make the sourcing of skills a standard part of any bid," Burmeister said.

Underpinning the importance of this sector, three United States government agencies have established a Clean Energy Development and Finance Centre in Johannesburg to support the development of renewable energy projects across sub-Saharan Africa. 

“Delays in obtaining business work permits can set projects back by months,” says Burmeister.

“The criteria used by the Department of Home Affairs must be aligned with national requirements. The independent power producer programme emphasises skills transfer and stresses the benefits it will bring to the local population. But skills transfer is achievable only if we have access to appropriate skills and experience at the outset.

“The US and Singapore are examples of countries that have placed a premium on importing skilled migrant labour. This has led to rapid growth of their economies.

“The development of renewable energy is regarded as being in the national interest, but the rewards of the programme will be achieved only with the alignment of all government departments involved,” says Burmeister.


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