26 August 2011
Numerous jobs and business opportunities will arise as the government designs programmes favouring renewable energy and energy efficiency.
This was the key message of a workshop for women entrepreneurs hosted by the Department of Energy in Durban on Thursday.
Deputy Energy Minister Barbara Thompson told workshop delegates that initiatives such as the drive to instal solar water geysers would give South African women an opportunity to participate in the installation and maintenance processes.
China has committed to training women in the installation of solar water geysers. “Once trained, these women will return to start their own enterprises or join other entrepreneurs in this area while training more women,” Thompson said.
Funding, judging from the workshop, is one of the biggest problems facing women trying to break into the energy industry. Numberous delegates told stories of not being able to access finance to buy petrol stations or engage in other energy projects.
Integrated Resources Plan
Thompson said the Integrated Resources Plan (IRP), approved by Cabinet in March this year, pays close attention to South Africa’s changing energy needs.
“It talks to the importance of access to energy and an energy mix benefiting the designated groups, especially women.”
The plan also seeks to stimulate local manufacturing capacity for the “green” economy, and Thompson encouraged the women also to consider opportunities in the manufacturing of energy products.
Thoko Gulube, a representative from Women in Oil and Energy South Africa (WOESA), told BuaNews that skills shortages and finance rank among the most significant challenges that women face when they approach WOESA.
“It’s important to get young females to acquire hard skills and study manufacturing and project management,” Gulube said.
WOESA, an NGO, helps women who are in the oil, gas and renewable energy businesses, providing training and networking opportunities.
Clean Energy, Education and Empowerment Initiative
The department also wants to ensure that women start connecting to promote the use of clean energy. Earlier this week, the Energy Department launched the Clean Energy, Education and Empowerment Initiative (C3E).
C3E, said Thompson, aims to inspire young women to purse clean energy-related studies, and to provide real-life, hands-on experience through team research opportunities in partnership with academic institutions.
“The participation of women at this event was excellent and I am confident it has laid a solid basis that will increase the footprint of women in the energy sector.”
The government’s Integrated National Electrification programme had been yielding positive results, Thompson said. In 2010, 5 000 jobs were created nationwide and women benefitted from this programme, said Thompson.
“Through this programme, we are focusing on access for rural areas,” she said, adding that the department was looking into establishing Integrated Energy Centres in rural areas.