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Unlocking opportunities for female electricians

by Media Xpose

The EPC Training Programme and the new Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) has had a positive impact on job creation, targeting, but not exclusively, women and youth. SA Business Integrator spoke to Barry Bredenkamp, General Manager, Energy Efficiency at South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI), and Yolande de Lange, Executive Director at the Institute of Energy Professionals Africa (IEPA), to find out more.

“Although the initial uptake for Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) for certain classes of buildings in South Africa was relatively slow, we have experienced a sudden increase in activity, as the current deadline for compliance of 7 December 2022 is fast approaching!” says Bredenkamp.

“This has come with a corresponding positive impact on job creation prospects (targeting, but not exclusively for women and youth). This as can be seen by the numbers of delegates registering for EPC-training with the various institutions offering this training and the number of jobs advertised by not only SANAS-accredited Inspection Bodies, but also for facility managers with an understanding of the EPC regulations. These numbers still need to be quantified, but it is definitely on an upward trajectory.”

Bredenkamp says that buildings have a major role to play in the effort to reduce the negative impacts of climate change. He says EPCs will not reduce energy consumption or carbon emissions but will make a significant impact on visualising how far individual buildings go in achieving this aim, as well as quantifying the quantum of energy efficiency savings required to reach an A-rating, with reduced carbon emissions.

What are the actions of industry players to ensure that businesses are compliant?

Yolanda de Lange says the first step would be for building owners to familiarize themselves with the requirements of the EPC regulation to determine if the building is required to comply.

“Check if the building falls within the building occupancy category and whether the size of the building is larger than the regulation requires, as well as whether the last renovation was done within the last two years.

“An understand of the regulation can assist with managing the initial financial impact of the regulation on the building owner’s bottom line.

Visit the SANEDI website and scroll to the Energy Performance Certificate programme for more information and guidance. There is also an EPC Guideline available from SANEDI and DMRE and this can be accessed by scanning the QR code.

What is the SANEDI and IEPA capacity building initiative targeting electricians to enable them to become compliant with reference to the EPC?

De Lange says that since the SANS1544:2014 Energy Performance Certificate standard was already anticipated more than eight years ago, initially a full qualification called the Energy Efficiency Technician, or Energy Audit Technician, was developed and registered with the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO).

“This qualification was used as a basis on which the specific outcomes required to collect, collate, calculate and present data required to produce an EPC following a logical standardized approach was developed to build this course, which ultimately is now registered as a qualification at the QCTO called EPC Practitioner.

“A number of industry bodies and subject matter experts participated through the development and project management process.”

What has the uptake been?

“The uptake has been great; within a week of advertising we received 173 applications from which 50 students were ultimately selected by the companies that signed up to provide the required work experience. There is now a waiting list of persons wishing to take the course and qualify in the full qualification after taking the course. Around 56% are female students,” says De Lange.

What was the rationale behind targeting predominantly youth and females?

Bredekamp says the rationale is in line with national policy to address the alarming unemployment rate in these sectors, which remain consistently high and unsustainable.

“This type of work is ideal for women in the energy industry as the nature of the work is largely consulting, and also project-based, and offers flexible hours,” De Lange adds.

How does the EPC Training Programme impact enterprise and supplier development?

Bredenkamp says the potential EPC market is huge, with many opportunities for many service providers.

“”Through targeted training interventions such as this programme, we are able to empower SMMEs with new skills needed to meet the demand for these services, which incidentally, do not necessarily exist in the South African market right now.

“Furthermore, and through a variety of measures such as this media coverage, we will continue profiling the candidates graduating from this programme and to ensure that they are indeed listed on potential supplier development programmes in this area,” he adds.

What is the success rate of the pilot programme?

De Lange says that so far, less than 60% of the students are in permanent employment following the programme. This is mainly due to delays in the assessment processing through the QCTO as a very short timeframe was given to develop the qualification, go through the registration and accreditation processes, which are almost concluded.

“The lessons learnt from the pilot, which all parties contributed to, including the students, mentors, assessors, and steering committee, will assist with the development and deploying future Just Energy Transition projects.

“In addition, the qualification is now available to other colleges to become accredited to provide the course and qualification,” she adds.

How equipped are the graduates to assist the built industry in becoming compliant?

“They are able to determine whether a building owner requires an EPC or not and perform the data collection and information gathering required for verification by the South African National Accreditation System (SANAS) accredited EPC Inspection Body,” says De Lange.

Why do artisans continue to struggle to find employment, and how does the EPC assist in helping to alleviate this problem?

“The EPC practitioner qualification assists by building on a current artisan qualification, allowing the artisan to have an additional skill over and above others applying for the same job,” explains De Lange.

“For businesses that are not yet involved in the EPC or the energy field, an artisan can join a company and assist the company to create an additional service, thereby an additional revenue stream thereby effectively paying their own salaries.”

Is the programme on par with international standards, and what opportunities are there for graduates?

“Yes it is. The EPC practitioner qualification is a local qualification that teaches the South African standards and regulation, however, the process that the EPC practitioners need to follow to complete their assignments follows the international standard of energy auditing, which is ISO50002, or the South African adopted version SANS50002,” says De Lange

In terms of meeting COP targets for climate change, are energy sector professionals sufficiently empowered from a training perspective to impact positive change?

“Training is a continuous process, and many South African engineering graduates have continued their studies into the energy sector requirements. More needs to be done regarding non-engineering graduates,” says De Lange.

What has been the uptake on training initiatives geared towards renewable energy over the past 10 years?  

De Lange says renewable energy is different to EPCs in that it is a source of energy, where EPCs are intended to provide buildings owners with a metric to determine how efficiently the energy sources are being used within the building envelope – whatever the energy source is.

“The building’s rating also indicates what opportunities there are to improve the energy performance of the building, which eventually will lead to reduced strain on the electricity grid and financial savings.”

“The one common denominator or integrator for the energy sector globally is  the area of digitilisation’, where we see energy technologies and appliances converge with the ICT-sector, to implement SMART and sustainable solutions for end-users of energy and buildings are at the forefront of this ‘revolution’ in the energy sector,” Bredenkamp adds.

What skills development should energy professionals be looking at to capitalise on a future geared towards increased use of renewable and sustainable energy options?

This depends on the area in which the energy professional wants to specialise in.

“IEPA recommends undergoing a holistic course on the energy, this will provide an understanding of the whole industry, and an opportunity to identify where each person’s niche interest or market interest would fall in. Thereafter, there are many courses specifically for those niche markets or energy systems,” says De Lange.

Bredenkamp adds that skills development is a continuous process which will evolve over time, as more, new diagnostic ‘tools’ are developed to deal with and analyse energy data come to the fore, together with energy efficient and renewable energy technologies, which will all require ongoing, refresher training interventions.

What plans does IEPA and SANEDI have to continue upskilling local energy professionals, particularly those wanting to be part of the green economy?  

“The IEPA represents the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands, and the organisation has been in the region for 20 years this year. It offers numerous programmes of the AEE and has partners across the region to deploy the programmes. There are many skilled energy professionals in South Africa that can contribute to a sustainable economy already,” De Lange explains.

Bredenkamp says EPCs provide the opportunity for building owners, managers and tenants to visualise their energy and carbon impacts in an easy-to-understand and simple A-G rating system.

“This way it can alert the high energy consumers to take the necessary remedial steps to improve their EPC-rating (aspiring to achieve an A-rating), which in itself creates more business opportunities for Energy Services Companies (ESCos) and others, who will need to be contracted to do the physical technology retrofits,” he comments.

How do training programmes geared towards building the green economy assist in mitigating the transitional impact from coal-based value chains towards greener energy?

“Firstly, it assists with reducing the consumption of buildings and other energy consuming systems so that any alternative and renewable energy options would become more viable. Training in energy and renewable energy is only a small part towards Just Energy Transition, many other careers need to be developed and new economies need to be developed in the areas where coal-based economies are currently active to lessen the impact,” says De Lange.

“EPCs can certainly make a significant contribution to the Just Energy Transition by assisting in the acceleration of the global target for buildings to achieve a 50% Nett Zero target by 2030 and 100% Net Zero Carbon Emissions target by 2050!” Bredenkamp adds.

What is the potential future for local energy professionals in South Africa?

“It is clear from the success and demand of the EPC programme that regulation is what drives commitment to Just Energy Transition and meeting the global environmental goals,” says De Lange.

“Case in point is the standard for EPCs was already released eight years ago and building owners could voluntarily comply, however, they didn’t. Only now that there is a regulation is the industry becoming active. The future for energy professionals is very positive, especially now as stimulated by the EPC Regulation, however this could change in an instance if the Regulation is not properly enforced.

“There is currently a shortage of energy professionals with the right qualifications, compared with previous years. We have seen a sharp increase in request for referrals of internationally certified professionals. Sadly, this is the case globally, and our energy professionals are being lured to other countries as opportunities are more lucrative there.”

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