By: Tebogo Mokwena
Several SMMEs in the energy sector will be supported by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), which has partnered with the Energy & Water Sector Education Training Authority (EWSETA), to become more eco-friendly. More than R13,3-million has been set aside to capacitate and incubate 75 SMMEs in the energy sector for the next five years.
According to CSIR senior researcher Aradhna Pandarum, who is spearheading the programme, non-financial assistance will be provided to the businesses in the form of technical knowledge and the correct tools to be able to participate in the relevant value chains. “The technical incubation services that will be offered will provide support to guide and mentor the SMMEs, for example, by teaching them how to use relevant software to develop business cases around a certain technology,” she told Vutivi News.
Pandarum said that 50 SMMEs would be capacitated in a one-week training session, and 25 would be technically incubated. According to Pandarum, women and people living with disabilities would be prioritised, as well as regions that were most vulnerable to reduced economic growth during the energy transition, where coal-fired power stations and coal mines were set to be shut down first.
Pandarum noted that SMMEs had a relatively small capacity to help solve the country’s energy crisis, but this could change with the right knowledge and links between contributing partners provided to small businesses. However, she warned that if South Africans did not prepare for the rapid development and implementation of energy projects that were sweeping across the globe, they would be left behind.
“Working on the just energy transition portfolio in (the) CSIR, it has become clear that there is a dire need for skills development and capacity building for the rapidly-changing technology landscape in order to ensure equitable justice during the transition and to alleviate the impacts of the triple challenge of unemployment, poverty and inequality,” Pandarum told Vutivi News.
“There are stringent local content rules stipulated for infrastructure projects in the country, especially in the renewable energy independent power procurement programme. However, SMMEs still find it difficult to embed themselves in these value chains. “This programme will aim to improve this and ensure that SMMEs benefit from the opportunities that are presenting themselves in the transition,” she said.
Pandarum also said that while the funding was only for five years, the CSIR hoped that other collaborators would join the partnership so that the programme could reach more SMMEs and would last as the future of technology evolved. In South Africa, the just energy transition plan covers priority areas including the energy sector, electric vehicles and green hydrogen. It aims to ensure that those most directly affected by the transition from coal, which includes communities and workers, are not left behind as the country moves to lower carbon technologies.