China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) has announced that all construction projects for new coal power plants will be cancelled, effective immediately. Instead, the NEA is investing $361 billion into expanding renewable energy technologies in an effort to reduce the crippling smog levels in many cities in China. The number of coal power stations that will be halted, according to Reuters, is “over 100”.
The Independent predicts that the move from coal to renewable power will reportedly generate 13 million jobs in the renewable energy sector. But, how does a country move so precipitously from the tried-and-tested, age-old infrastructure it knows, to a whole new system? How are they going to pull it off?
They’re going to need engineers; a significant number of them from many engineering disciplines, working towards a sustainable, zero-emissions future.
Around the world, in fact, the move to renewable energy technologies presents unique opportunities. There is an enormous need for new engineers with the ability to innovate and approach energy production in fresh and novel ways.
South Africa has, for instance, become one of the top ten countries investing in renewable energy. This is creating new challenges for the engineers in the country. Without sound and competent education or re-education in these alternate power generating technologies, South Africa will be faced with a dire shortage of essential skills.
This does, however, pose a different and more difficult problem. Higher education and training remains a question mark for the next wave of engineering professionals, especially in South Africa. Student protests and the disruption of learning is generally destabilizing, but for those who would like to invest in their futures through tertiary education, and in turn, contribute to their country’s economy and well-being, it is particularly challenging.
Once a country gains a fully qualified engineer it is immediately better off, therefore, retaining these professionals has becomes a significant concern for the sovereign state of the twenty-first century.