Energy sector needs skills development

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‘People building’ is as crucial as capital and project building for South Africa’s energy sector, Dr. Mike de Pontes has said.

“I’ve come to a nexus, more or less, of capital, people and projects. Capital will come if the projects are large enough and financially sustainable. Bigger projects fuel the capability of training people. We’ve got to be smart about how we do that,” de Pontes, the CEO of iGas, said at the Infrastructure Africa conference on Wednesday.

“We’ve got to realise that in South Africa it happens every now and again and we have to develop a way in which we can pass that skills and learning onto other countries around us.”

The Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) estimates that power demand will rise from 590 terawatt hours in 2010 to 3,100 in 2040. In order to keep pace, power generation capacity on the continent must rise from 125 gigawatts to almost 700 in the next 27 years.

De Pontes believes that in order for South Africa, and Africa as a whole, to keep up with these demands, more emphasis needs to be put on training and development and sharing of skills.   

“The one thing that I see in my interactions with the gas companies, small to medium businesses are doing this alone. It seems to me a waste of opportunity where you could have government interaction that allows these people to work in another country and to grow that country’s skills,” said de Pontes.

“There’s a large skill pool in South Africa – these people are starting to look for opportunities in Mozambique, Tanzania, Namibia, even further afield. How does that skill get built? Often by the larger companies.”