June 16, 2009
Posted in Renewable energy
In a continent where millions of people have no access to the electricity grid or simply cannot afford to pay for electricity, small-scale energy options can have a huge impact in improving the quality of people’s lives. They also play an important role in combating climate change.
Last week the UK-based Ashden Awards gave prizes to two African energy projects that are inspiring examples of how local sustainable energy can make a difference. A Ugandan company producing briquettes from agricultural waste and a rural solar energy project in Ethiopia each were awarded £20,000 (R260,000). Another award-winner with an African connection is a joint US/Chinese cooking stove scheme that is bringing social and environmental benefits to African countries, including South Africa
ENERGY FROM AGRICULTURAL WASTE
Kampala Jellitone Suppliers (KJS), a Ugandan coffee-processing company, won an Ashden award for “avoided deforestation” for its briquettes made from the residue left after processing commercial crops, such as rice and peanut husks, coffee pulp and maize stalks.
The company sells 130 tonnes of briquettes every month, along with improved stoves that burn the briquettes more cleanly and efficiently, to schools, universities and hospitals for cooking, and to five factories for producing heat.
In climate terms, this saves 6.1 tons of carbon dioxide per ton of briquettes used, or 9,300 tons of carbon dioxide a year, according to an Ashden Awards press release.
“Using our briquettes reduces the pressure on wood resources and thus reduces deforestation, which is a serious and growing problem – particularly around Kampala [the country's capital],” said Abasi Kazibwe Musisi, managing director of KJS. “The agricultural residues used to make briquettes were previously burned as they were regarded as waste.”
SOLAR POWER FOR REMOTE VILLAGES
The Solar Energy Foundation, a non-governmental organisation established in 2006, has won the Ashden prize for rural electrification for installing more than 2,000 small solar energy systems in two remote Ethiopian villages, bringing electricity to these communites for the first time.
The 10,000-plus villagers living in Rema and Rema ena Dire, in Ethiopia’s northern highlands, five hours’ drive from Addis Ababa, previously depended on smoky kerosene lamps and candles for their lighting. They reportedly turned down the offer of free diesel generators in favour of solar power.
The villagers pay a monthly fee of about $1 to cover maintenance and repairs to keep the solar systems running. The village committee manages payments and employs nine local people as fee collectors.
“The solar programme has helped develop the community in many ways,” said Samson Tsegaye, the Ethiopian country representative of SEF.
“The local women’s association has set up a popular night school for uneducated adults to improve literacy. School children can now study in the evenings and one teacher claims her pupils’ grades have improved by 75 percent as a result. Fewer people are suffering from eye and respiratory problems associated with kerosene smoke.”
The foundation also has installed a solar-powered water pump in Rema to provide fresh drinking water, saving the villagers from having to walk for two hours to collect water.
“We now have a special financing system in place that will allow us to establish a network of Solar Centres all over Ethiopia over the coming years. Our aim is to initiate self-supporting solar businesses across Ethiopia – and to make ourselves superfluous as an NGO,” said Dr Harald Schützeichel, who established the foundation.
CLEANER COOKING STOVE
Domestic coal stoves mass produced by a joint venture between the US-based Aprovecho Research Center (ARC) and Shengzhou Stove Manufacturer (SSM) in China, were named Ashden energy champions last week. Each stove is said to prevent around 1.5 tonnes a year of carbon dioxide from being emitted and reduces toxic emissions by well over half.
About half the world still cooks with biomass or coal, using open fires or traditional stoves. The resulting emissions cause indoor air pollution, leading to serious eye and respiratory problems and kill around 1.5 million people a year, mainly children and women.
The emissions also contribute to climate change. The collection of firewood often leads to deforestation and erosion and is an additional and demanding chore for women.
Tests on the ARC/SSM stoves indicate major environmental benefits and health gains for users: reductions of up to 50% percent in fuelwood use and 70 percent carbon monoxide and particulate emissions compared to a traditional fire.
The stoves are manufactured in China by SSM and sold to distributors around the world — 60,000 stoves have been sold since 2008. They are used in countries including Argentina, Chile, India, Tanzania, Madagascar and South Africa.
Ester Konene, a South African householder who tested an ARC/SSM stove, said: “I used to use two litres of kerosene a day, costing $1.50 (R12). Now a 5kg pack of wood costing US $2.40 (R19) lasts three days. There are no emission problems. I wouldn’t want to give it back.”
For information on other 2009 Ashden Award winners click here
April 1, 2009
Posted in Renewable energy
The renewable energy feed-in tariffs announced by the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) yesterday appear to have been well received by industry players.
The tariff guidelines set the price renewable energy suppliers will be paid for a unit of electricity and they need to be high enough to encourage investment in the industry. Until recently, renewable energy had to compete with South Africa’s incredibly cheap (but very dirty) electricity from coal. There were no incentives for renewable energy investors. So it’s not surprising that, at present, South Africa has only one operating wind farm which produces 5MW of electricity.
But in 2004 South Africa set a renewable energy target of 10,000GWh by 2013 and to meet this target it needs to kickstart the industry and get things moving quickly. The tarrifs announced yesterday are perhaps a sign of a commitment to increase the role of renewables in the energy mix. They are a significant improvement on those in the consultation paper released by Nersa in December, which had been criticised for being too low to encourage investment.
Under Nersa’s new tariff guidelines, developers will receive R1,25/kWh for wind (up 65c/kWh), 90c/kWh for landfill gas (up from 43c), 94c/kWh for small hydro (up from 73c) and R2,10/kWh for concentrated solar power (up from 65c).
To give you something to compare this to: on my January electricity bill, I was charged about 40c/kWh. But Eskom’s prices will increase and a levy on electricity generated from non-renewable sources is likely to come into effect sometime this year.
The power purchase agreement with suppliers will last for 20 years and the tariffs will be reviewed every year for five years and every three years after that. Eskom, the state energy utility, will act as the renewable energy power purchasing agency.
Don’t rush out to buy solar panels to generate electricity on your roof, though. The new tariffs don’t mean that ordinary households will soon be able to generate electricity from rooftop photovoltaics and get reimbursed for feeding it back into the grid. Nersa’s feed-in tariffs exclude photovoltaic panels and biomass generation. The regulator’s focus appears to be on utility-scale generation.
Consumers will most likely have to bear the increased cost of renewable energy – but at least we can look forward to some alternatives to coal and nuclear in the future.
March 6, 2009
Posted in Renewable energy
Eskom is looking to the World Bank to help fund a proposed R6-billion, 100MW solar thermal power plant, Reuters reports. The power utility could make the decision to build the plant, which will provide baseload electricity, later this year. Eskom’s climate change and sustainability manager Mandy Rambharos said the plant could be built within 18 months and would be piloted for two years after that.
In 2002, Eskom completed a pre-feasiblity study for a large-scale, grid-connected concentrated solar power generation project. The study found that Upington offers one of the world’s best solar resources and that a concentrated solar power (CSP) plant built in South Africa could produce the lowest-cost solar electricity in the world to date. It also found that CSP plants could be designed to meet evening peak loads in South Africa.
March 6, 2009
Posted in Renewable energy
The department of minerals and energy is developing a climate change strategy for the energy sector, which should be completed by the end of September, Bulyelwa Sonjica, the minister of minerals and energy said this week at the Climate Change Summit 2009 in Midrand.
The strategy will assess climate change mitigation measures for the energy sector and consider technological opportunities in energy efficiency, renewable energy and carbon capture and storage.
Minister Sonjica said that energy and climate change are “clearly intimately connected” and that mitigation offered opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors and that climate change policies must assist in promoting these opportunities.
The renewable energy feed-in tarrif (Refit), which is reportedly due to be released at the end of this month (March), will be an important stimulus for the renewable energy industry in South Africa.
She said the department is continuing with pilot projects around wind and solar which it hopes to “upscale at the right time”, adding that “clearly more needs to be done to support both public and private investment in renewable energy technologies.”
She said that these technologies offer a number of economic opportunities and job creation benefits that our society can capitalise on.
Additional funding could come from a 2c/kWh levy on electricity from non-renewable sources that is due to be implemented this year. Deputy director-general of minerals and energy Nelisiwe Magubane was reported by Reuters as saying: “We now charge a carbon tax on electricity … we will use that to go back to the Treasury to either introduce tax breaks for people who want to invest in renewables or increase our subsidies, now at only R20-million.”
At a side event earlier in the day the minister urged South African companies to make use of the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism. She said the CDM was an international tool to unlock carbon assets and very few South African companies are tapping into it.
South Africa is lagging behind other developing countries, such as India, China and Brazil with only 14 CDM projects. But it does have more than any ther country in Africa and there are reportedly another 12 local projects at the validation stage.
Some CDM projects are “low-hanging fruit that could easily be harvested”, said Ms Sonjica, adding that her department has put initiatives in place to help companies access CDM funding.
February 18, 2009
Posted in Renewable energy
Ericsson and Orange Guinea Conakry are deploying more than 100 base stations fully powered by solar energy. This will allow remote parts of rural Africa without an established power grid to have access to mobile communications.
Alassane Diene, CEO of Orange Guinea Conakry, says: “We are reducing our energy bill. These base stations are also easier to install and require less maintenance than the traditional site. They also offer greater reliability and therefore considerably improved quality of service.”
Jan Embro, President of Ericsson for sub-Saharan Africa, says: “It is extremely exciting to be able to run sites on alternative energy sources. Limiting dependency on fossil fuels brings many advantages, but the greatest is the ability to offer sustainable connectivity to low-income users in remote areas across Africa.”
This rollout program supports the sustainability initiatives of both Ericsson and Orange, focusing on reducing the carbon footprint while making communication more affordable and accessible.
Orange Group says it intends to have more than 1,000 wholly solar-powered base stations in its African operations by the end of 2009.
Princess Elisabeth research base © International Polar Foundation
The first Antarctic base to operate entirely on renewable energies officially opened on Sunday. Instead of diesel generators, Belgium’s Princess Elisabeth research station in East Antarctica, has 6kW wind turbines designed to work in extreme environments.
Most Antarctic research stations rely on diesel generators because no wind turbines were thought to be robust enough to endure the most severe weather conditions on Earth, says Proven Energy, the Scottish small wind turbine manufacturer that supplied the turbines for the base.
“They will be operating in average winds of 53 mph [85 kph] and winter gusts of over 200mph [320 kph], while still providing 230V electricity for the stations heating, computers, lights and scientific instruments,” says Proven Energy. “The electricity generated is expected to be the highest output of any small wind power system in the world.”
In addition to the turbines, both solar thermal and photovoltaic (PV) will be used on the building itself. The water supply for the station will use solar thermal panels to melt the snow thereby limiting the use of electrical energy to pump water.
The research station combines eco-friendly construction materials, clean and efficient energy use, optimisation of the station’s energy consumption and the best waste management techniques with the aim of reducing its ecological footprint on the pristine Antarctic environment, says the International Polar Foundation, which was commissioned by the Belgian government to design and build it.
The station provides state-of-the-art facilities for 16 scientists to do climate change research.
[Via: Engineering News]
Environmental organisation WWF South Africa has welcomed the taxes targeting “unsustainable spending” in this year’s Budget, but says that the government needs to help to reduce the cost of sustainable alternatives by providing renewable energy with the same finance support it gives to fossil fuel.
The group describes as “very positive moves” the carbon tax on new vehicles, which means that people who buy the most fuel-efficienct vehicles will pay less tax; the increase in the fuel levy; the levy on inefficient incandescent light-bulbs; the tax breaks for investments in energy efficiency; and the clarity on tax exemption for carbon credits, which encourages the generation of carbon credit and greenhouse gas savings, but not speculation in carbon credit.
But the government has agreed to guarantee R176-billion worth of debt for the national power utility, Eskom, in order to reduce the cost of finance for its R343-billion investment, most of which will go towards financing massive new coal power stations.
Peet du Plooy, WWF’s Trade and Investment Advisor in South Africa, says: “It would not be reasonable in a country that pursues climate leadership, to exclude the renewable energy sector from the same much-needed finance support that government is extending, via Eskom, to investment in fossil fuel infrastructure.”
“WWF does not support the planning basis for the present Eskom expansion, or the selection of conventional coal technology as a result of such planning. However, if this public investment were accepted as a ship that’s already sailed, there is still a case to be made that the same provisions should also be available to guarantee the finance of clean, renewable energy,” says Du Plooy.
Motor vehicle manufacturing, airlines and mining, “some of the most environmentally risky industries”, have also received support worth billions of rands in this year’s Budget, the WWF points out in a statement.
Photo by Arnold Paul, licensed under Creative Commons Atr
The organisation also says that the R6.4 billion that will be made available for public transport, roads and rail infrastructure would be made more sustainable if the money were “channelled more towards public transport and rail infrastructure rather than roads”.
Du Plooy also said that: “A tax on emissions-intensive industries like private cars or fossil-fuelled electricity, should be balanced with incentives for job-intensive, low-emissions alternatives like public transport and renewable energy.”
February 13, 2009
Posted in Renewable energy
- The National Energy Regulator (Nersa) is due to introduce the renewable energy feed-in tariffs for South Africa by the end of this month. These will determine how much local producers of renewable energy will be paid per kilowatt hour for their electricity and help them to decide whether it is worth investing in the industry. But at a meeting last week many prospective investors reportedly told Nersa that its tariffs proposals, which were released for comment last year, were too low to attract investment and that having Eskom, the national electricity utility, as the proposed sole purchasing agency of renewable electricity was problematic. Nersa said it was on track to meet its deadline. Read the full report on Business Day.
- Volkswagen is joining forces with Toshiba to develop electric cars. Volkswagen says the two companies plan to develop battery systems for the next generation of electric vehicles. [Reuters via Planet Ark]
February 10, 2009
Posted in Renewable energy
In what is potentially great news for the renewable energy industry in South Africa, the department of minerals and energy may be split into two separate ministries this year, according to a Reuters report.
An unbundled energy ministry would have the job of implementing an energy policy for the country that is less tied to the mining industry. At present about 90 percent of South Africa’s energy is produced from coal, of which there is a plentiful supply. But for the country to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, which it has committed to do, this reliance on dirty fossil fuel has to end and other, cleaner energy sources, such as solar and wind, have to start adding their “green” electrons to the electricity grid.
The department of minerals and energy is perceived to have been dragging its feet on finding alternative sources of energy. Although the government has set a renewable energy target of 10 000GWh by 2013, this target is described as modest and the government is behind schedule in meeting it. What’s more the renewable energy feed-in tariff system (REFIT), which will determine how much alternative energy suppliers are paid for the electricity they generate and thus make the industry economically viable, has apparently been under discussion for more than a decade and has now become a matter of urgency.
According to BR, there is talk that the energy ministry may join with environmental affairs which would make sense given the relationship between energy issues and climate change.
February 9, 2009
Posted in Renewable energy
The global economic crisis was an exciting opportunity for South Africa to make massive investments in renewable energy and position itself as a world leader in combatting climate change, Patricia de Lille, the leader of the Independent Democrats, said in a speech in Parliament today.
Investing in renewable energy would create hundreds of thousands of jobs and provide sustainable energy for our people, she said.
“There is no reason why South Africa cannot be one of the world leaders in terms of renewable energy.”
“This would enable us to develop skills, where hundreds of thousands of our people will be able to become plumbers, electricians, solar power installers and wind turbine technicians.”
She said that Germany had created a quarter of a million jobs in its renewable energy industry in only 10 to 15 years.
But South Africa needs leadership, political will and budgetary resources if it is to carve a place for itself in this industry.
She said that the fact that the government had set a target to have one million solar water heaters installed in three years and had only succeeded in installing 800 in the first year was evidence that the “government is not serious”.
De Lille called on the government to suspend all spending on projects like the pebble-bed modular reactor, the conventional nuclear and arms industries, “which create very few jobs and waste billions of rand on foreign companies”.