Climbing the value chain: renewable energy manufacturing

June 30th, 2016, Published in Articles: EE Publishers, Articles: Energize


Discussing skills development can be a buzzword exercise and often sticky terrain in especially the renewable energy sector, because despite noble intentions and local content policies, most renewable energy jobs in South Africa are at the bottom of the value change, and are semi-skilled and often only temporary. The East London Industrial Development Zone is setting out to change this by developing manufacturing capacity in renewable energy.

Pierre Potgieter, assistant editor at EE Publishers, is on a week-long tour of South Africa, sponsored by the US Embassy, seeking out various innovative renewable energy projects. The articles below form a diary of his travels.

Day 3: Wednesday 29 June

A stone’s throw away from the East London Airport, near the golden shoreline of the Wild Coast, sits a budding giant of an industrial park: the East London Industrial Development Zone (ELIDZ). Part of a governmental development programme and based on international development practices, it focusses on component manufacturing. Car components were an obvious entry point due to the automotive industry’s prominence in the area. Now the ELIDZ is shifting its sights to renewable energy.

Day 3 (1) East London IDZ


Click here for Pierre’s report on day 1

Click here for Pierre’s report on day 2

Click here for Pierre’s report on day 4

South Africa’s rapidly growing renewable energy market has been identified for its manufacturing and research and development (R&D) potential. In many ways renewable energy too is a natural progression, as the IDZ is situated in an industrial area with strict emission limits, says Dr. Chris Ettmayr, the ELIDZ Renewable Energy and ICT Sector manager. One of the spin-offs from its renewable energy focus is that it attracts a different breed of tenants, often more innovative, he says.

Manufacturing creates a value chain, which in turn requires better skilled workers, and as manufacturing and technological developments progress, it serves to further lower skilled work, in buzzword terms, “up-skill”.

The emphasis on a knowledge economy makes it a striking approach. Developed economies are knowledge-based economies, says Ludwe Fanie, the programme director at the ELIDZ’s Science and Technology Park (STP).

The ELIDZ’s science and technology park plays a central role in developing this value chain in manufacturing through incubation and commercialisation of projects and R&D. It offers its tenants access to funding, business development, networks and partners, and ICT infrastructure, among other things.

The ELIDZ already has three tenants working in the renewable energy industry, including a solar panel manufacturer. One wonders when this model will be replicated in other parts of the country, creating jobs and up-skilling more people.

Click here for Pierre’s report on day 1

Click here for Pierre’s report on day 2

Click here for Pierre’s report on day 4

Related Articles

  • Will changes in tariff structure threaten solar PV rollout?
  • The benefits of Power over Ethernet lighting
  • Lighting lessons from Europe
  • Wild Fire Fiasco: California utility’s decision to shut off power to avoid wild fires backfires
  • Eskom rejects Nersa’s decisions regarding MYPD4 – heads to court; Nersa responds