Manufacturing renewable energy components are part of a bigger strategy to create some 300 000 jobs, Eskom CEO André de Ruyter said in an interview on radio station 702 on Friday, citing studies by a national business initiative.
De Ruyter was discussing efforts to go greener at the state-owned power utility.
Eskom generates most of South Africa’s electricity from coal. The utility, which reported a fourth straight annual loss earlier this week and is struggling to deal with a mountain of debt, is turning to renewable energy to lower emissions and potentially receive better financing terms. That shift will also affect the nation’s coal mines and the communities that surround them.
As South Africa’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, the utility is evaluating the use of carbon capture at power plants as part of decarbonisation plans to transform the coal-burning utility.
The process that captures carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions would need to be financially viable, the CEO said.
"We need large geological structures to ensure that the CO2 is captured and stored safely so it cannot escape," De Ruyter said. Transportation of the emissions is also complex and costly, he added.
De Ruyter expressed optimism that manufacturing renewable energy components could lead to significant job creation.
But Eskom’s biggest labor group, the National Union of Mineworkers, was skeptical. "We don’t believe that," said Khangela Baloyi, energy sector coordinator for the union, in a response to questions.
De Ruyter’s estimate of jobs in the renewable industry would, if realised, make it bigger than South Africa’s platinum and gold mining industries, which combined employ almost 260 000 workers.
This article has been edited by Fin24.