Archive for Economic Development from South Africa

Rosebank Hotel refurbished and rocking

by on December 3, 2008 at 2:00 am

This post is a few days late but nonetheless deserves to be written as the Rosebank Hotel really is worth visiting if you get the chance.
Working in Rosebank I have, over the past months, driven past men and woman working at a steady rate at rebuilding and developing the renowned Rosebank Hotel. I was […]

South Africa Sluggish on Wind Power

by on December 2, 2008 at 9:00 pm

In many parts of the world, the winds of change may be blowing towards renewables, but don’t expect the South African government to participate.

That’s the assessment of Herman Oelsner, president of the African Wind Energy Association. Standing in front of four wind turbines in Darling in the Western Cape province, Oelsner told our group of bloggers that private industry and regional governments would have to lead the way. He explained that South Africa is rich in coal, and that the federal government owns Eskom, which provides 90 percent of the energy to the country. Because coal is cheap and abundant and the mining industry provides a lot of jobs, the country has little incentive to change. “The utility (Eskom) is against renewables, and that’s why we don’t have any in this country,” said Oelsner. South Africa currently produces 93 percent of its energy from coal.

The wind farm is selling electricity to the Capetown City Council through a power purchase agreement. “We are ‘pulling a Schwarzenegger’ by working directly with provinces which have their own policies,” said Oelsner, refering to the California governor’s penchant for enacting envirornmental regulations that far exceed federal standards.

The federal government did provide some money for the wind farm project, which is led by Danish investors, according to Oelsner. He envisions expanding the wind farm from 4 to 20 turbines, each with 1.3 megawatt generating capacity, and has designs on adding a 770 megawatt wave power project off the nearby western shoreline. Adding wave power would provide a “hybrid power source” as the waves are more powerful in summer while wind power is stronger in the winter.

Financing for the projects has not been lined up yet, but Oelsner does not anticipate problems. A pilot wave energy project of 5 megawatts would cost about 200 millon rand.

The wave project won’t go forward until a feed-in tariff from the province, which would guarantee an incentive for renewable power, is passed. Oelsner expects this to happen in March and hopes for an 85 cent (South African) tariff. This will give the project a big boost: feed-in tariffs in Germany and Spain have sparked the solar industry in those nations to lead the world. “We have to get a return on investment that is higher than the Eskom rate,” he said.

The mining and energy companies control government policy in South Africa, according to Oelsner. He said his organization was vying to become the first working wind farm in South Africa, but the permits were held up by the government until after a small test project from Eskom could be launched. In this sense, Oelsner’s project is going against the, er, wind.

Joule, the South African Electric Car

by on December 1, 2008 at 8:53 am


[Blogging Tour – South Africa 08] This morning we went to Optimal Energy in Cape Town to meet with CEO Kobus Meiring for a presentation of the South African electric car A.K.A. Joule. Presented last September at the Auto Show in Paris, this promising green vehicle got a lot of attention from the industry, but it will not hit the market until the end of 2010. The goal of Optimal Energy is to compete with the mainstream offering and not only with the other electric cars, that is the reason why it fits 6 passengers and has a 130 km per hour maximum speed. The company does not know which type of lithium battery it will use for the final product yet, and we did not see any drive test. If the final Joule is really as good as it is on the paper, we can expect a bright future for clean automotive. Features include: 200km to 400 km range, 0-100 km in 15 seconds, 0-50 km in 5 seconds, energy cost 4c* /km (compared to 80c/km with petrol, diesel). It will be priced around $22,000.

* This is the South African cent.

Sustainability Includes Planet AND People

by on November 22, 2008 at 12:14 am

If you ask five friends what it means to be sustainable, you’ll likely get five varying interpretations. Most response would center on the treatment of the natural environment, or possibly the ability of a business to continue into the future.

On a macro level, sustainability also includes about the health impact of its mining industry, according to The New York Times.

The rate of fatalities in South Africa’s gold mining industry is improving, but still runs at more than four people per week. This is of particular concern to me since I’ll soon be a few thousand feet underground in the TauTona gold mine , as part of the We Blog the World media tour. The Tau Tona mine — the deepest operating mine in the world — has been improving its safety record but experiences dangerous seismic activity.

No enterprise where mother nature has a say in the outcome can ever be 100 percent safe, but it is important that strong guidelines be in place. As long as there is demand for high value minerals and metals, there will be mining, and people will lose their lives.

To ensure that those events are as rare as the metals being mined, the South African parliament is considering a law that would criminally prosecute mining executives — including jail time — for avoidable accidents on their watch. This would be a significant step towards protecting workers and making mining a more sustainable endeavor. All nations should consider such penalties.

Learning about the Q Fund

by on November 17, 2008 at 12:29 am

Logo_smaller I ran into some folks tonight who know the founders of the Q Fund, an organization dedicated to ensure a free education for vulnerable children so they can realize their dreams and talents. Yes, education, but its about so much more as I geared up to hear more.

No surprise that the discussion came about as we were discussing my upcoming trip to South Africa. The founder was living South Africa in 1997, not long after I was living there the second time around. As she came face-to-face with the plight of millions of orphaned African children, she used photography to recount their courageous and heartrending story in her book, African Journal: A Child’s Continent, an inspiring narrative of how these children taught her the true meaning of love.

The Q Fund has developed partnerships with numerous like-minded organizations and individuals and is spearheading a collaborative effort to build the Mucinshi School – a world-class high school in Zambia which will become the prototype for a scalable, replicable model that can be used to help children and communities in need anywhere in the world.

I plan to dig deeper but didn’t want to miss an opportunity to introduce the organization to people who may never have heard about them. Introduce and of course share their core values:

Free education for vulnerable children.

To honor cultural differences and heritage of communities.

To design and build facilities and infrastructure that conserve, protect and enhance natural resources.

To empower individuals and communities to achieve financial independence.

To deliver measurable results within a specified timeframe with transparency and complete accountability.

To develop community-based businesses which become the foundation of thriving, sustainable economies.

To acknowledge through our mutual endeavors our growth and development as human beings.

Bush Cheerleads While the Economy Dives

by on July 21, 2008 at 12:11 pm
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