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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Nelson Mandela Bay municipality embraces conservation, solar energy

Maphazi signs historic renewable power deals

By Max Matavire Metro Editor

NELSON Mandela Bay municipality made history yesterday when it became the first local authority in the country to kick-start renewable energy projects valued at billions of rands, aimed at providing its residents with reliable and affordable alternative energy.

Four renewable energy contracts were signed between the municipality and a consortium of companies led by Lereko Sustainability and the Central Energy Fund, bringing to an end months of highly technical negotiations.

The consortium will be involved in three of the four projects, but one will be done jointly with Straits Group, which is already involved in the multi-million rand chemical plant to be built at Coega IDZ.

The actual projects to be implemented in two to three months are the demand side management, also called energy efficiency, the solar water geyser project and the landfill gas in which methane gas is to be utilised.

The fourth project which is still under investigation and which will be finalised in the “near future” is wind energy from the wind farms and small scale hydro electricity projects.

“We are still investigating these projects and contracts will be signed soon,‘‘ said Dr Crispian Olver, a consultant with the Central Energy Fund. He said the successful implementation of these projects would result in a saving of 20 per cent of the electricity currently consumed.

“The current Nelson Mandela Bay demand of 610 megaWatts is expected to increase to between 2 500 and 3 000 megaWatts over the next 10 years – this means that all possible sources of power need to be tapped in to meet the anticipated shortfall,” Olver said.

Renewable energy projects tended to be more expensive than conventional energy, he said. However, the consortium had used a combination of international and national funding, carbon finance, demand-side management subsidies and other grants to make the renewable energy affordable to residents.

The energy efficiency programme will be rolled out throughout Nelson Mandela Bay.

It involved making public lighting more efficient and cutting electricity consumption in municipal buildings.

The solar geyser programme will provide hot water to individual households, industry and commercial complexes. Solar heaters will be installed on a voluntary basis and residents will pay a monthly fee, which is much less than they currently pay.

Additional or new energy will also be supplied to indigent and low-income households.

Two sites have already been identified for the third project – the collection of landfill gas. These are the Arlington tip and Koedoeskloof. Both have sufficient methane gas to generate electrical power.

This renewable energy is generated from waste in landfills around Nelson Mandela Bay, as well as the sewerage treatment plant at Fishwater Flats. This project will be done by the Straits Group, who are also involved in the chemical plant at Coega.

Mayor Nondumiso Maphazi described the occasion as a “milestone” in the history of the municipality. “We have paved the way for other municipalities to follow suit. This is the culmination of hard work from both parties involved, and we are proud about this project,” she said.

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