The South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) is set to standardize metric in bid to asses energy sector employment. This after a recent Meridian Economics study commissioned by the association for a highly unequal middle-income country such as South Africa, showed the employment implications of the energy transition are both politically and socially significant.
According to Brenda Martin, CEO of SAWEA, standardised employment metrics and methodologies should be used across all energy technologies. Such understanding can then usefully inform the planning choices that need to be made in the short term.
She further added that globally, the power sector is undergoing a complex structural transition away from a model of regulated, monopolistic, centralised and coal-based electricity supply. Standardizing metrics and employment categorization methods are imperative and are increasingly relied upon for energy planning both locally and internationally.
“Standardisation should not be confused with simplification, as there is no need to reduce the number of metrics and categories that usefully shed light on the different facets of employment. There is however, a need to be able to make appropriate comparisons between power options. Currently this is not easily possible,” explained Brenda Martin.
“Currently all South African coal power related employment studies use the metric ‘employees’ or ‘jobs’ as opposed to the more internationally applied metric, ‘person-years’ which is used to report national Renewable Energy employment,”she added.
The term ‘job’, could refer to a job created for one day or for 20 years. Simply counting a ‘job’ can be meaningless. Standardising the metric ‘job-year’ would assist more meaningful employment comparison between the two sectors.
Impact of created employment
Beyond understanding whether comparisons between power options are useful, SAWEA is interested in asking questions that also address the value and impact of created employment.
“We should be asking if the employment created will support a family, if it requires relocation, if there is opportunity for learning, development and progression. Asking such questions can stimulate the promotion of improved quality of employment,” added Martin.
Standardised metrics will ensure that stakeholder groups that are raising important concerns relating to social effects introduced by the energy transition away from a reliance on coal, are better equipped to assist planning based on reliable comparisons.