JOHANNESBURG - The renewable energy sector could provide an unexpected but much-needed jobs boost to South Africa’s employment levels, as the sector continues to mature, solar enery company SOLA Future Energy said on Monday.

SOLA Future Energy is the company that replaced Robben Island’s diesel-powered electricity supply with a grid driven by solar energy.

The more new solar systems are built and come online, the greater the growth in the ongoing job opportunities in both the operation and maintenance of these facilities," CEO Dom Wills said.

"Although the job prospects for the construction of renewable energy projects are well understood, ongoing and permanent career opportunities created by the operation and maintenance of the solar systems are just as important and should not be underestimated,” he said.

Wills said a common misconception about the renewable energy sector is that it lacks job opportunities.

“At first, those seeking jobs in the energy sector in South Africa were just looking to work for entities like Eskom," he said, referring to the state owned electricity utility.

"As more people understood that installed solar panels needed maintenance, interest in the sector grew. As the sector has grown, the opportunities have expanded and also become more specialised."

The European market shows that for every MW of solar installed, some 28 job-years per MW were created. Closer to home, across SOLA’s operations portfolio of 23.5 MW, four people are employed full time and one part time.

“If we extrapolate this to cover the entire embedded market, we estimate that at least 37 people are employed, full time, for South Africa’s current 200 MW of embedded generation," said Wills. "The market potential of 5,000 MW means that at least 900 potential jobs could exist."

- African News Agency (ANA)