Published January 2019
I really enjoyed preparing this article, and the content is extremely exciting and inspires me. I hope like-minded people or those I call Future Thinkers will feel the same.
Most of what I write is in the context of business, and every business owner wishes they could foresee the future. Unfortunately, this wish is not possible. Or is it?
Humanity is at a point in its existence where we have to prepare for the future, and we don’t have a time machine… yet.
This means we need to research and educate ourselves in order to make the most informed decisions we can, based on the information currently available. I know we all have very busy lives; therefore I have helped those people who don’t have the time, and written this article which applies not only to business owners, but every single person on earth!
The human ability to physically adapt and evolve to our environment and demands on our resources has reached day zero on our 4.6 billion-year-old planet. If we scale 4.6 billion years down to a mere 46 years, that would mean mankind has only been around for 4 hours.
Context is so important. This article really is about where mankind is going to be in the next 60 seconds… and unlike cockroaches, which have survived 300 million years, humans would like to maintain their evolutionary superiority and not live unground. If we don’t act now we will become scavengers at best, consumed by a war for survival involving a fight for many things we take for granted such as oxygen, living space, water, or even freedom of movement… all our human rights, needs, social liberties are all under threat.
I am very aware that my points sound sensationalist, but before you adopt this incorrect opinion, taking into context, and using the same time scale referenced before, consider that within the 4 hours mankind has been around, our industrial revolution was only 60 seconds, and within half of that time we destroyed over 50 % of our earth’s forests.
Technology can be helpful, or harmful.
By virtue of our numbers and the practices of our many societies, we cannot sustain ourselves. Our planet’s fuel tank is now on red for reserve.
Anyone who ignores the points I make in this article do so at their own peril and those of your children. Shame on you!
Status of the World and Challenges.
We will have 9 billion people living on earth by the year 2050.
Big powers know a war for resources is brewing, how can they not? They would be remiss otherwise.
Each government will do their very best to protect their people. Well, one would hope.
Perhaps a government will prevent exports to resources that are stored, or perhaps they will close borders, or perhaps, they will use new technology to create new resources or make better use of those available.
Regardless each government will have the challenge to prevent panic when the damns run dry and the food runs out.
The challenge is that we won’t all survive as a humane and ethical species if super powers and developed countries manage all the resource and solutions.
Regardless of whether we like it or not, there is only a global population to protect. Either we make a consolidated effort to save the earth, so it can support us, or we all go down in this sinking ship.
We need to all become policemen of our resources.
As far as governments are concerned, there will be an initial focus on resources like coal and oil because of people’s reliance on electricity, transport and trade.
If industry suffers, votes suffer, and then political instability follows.
Electricity production is currently reliant on coal, which contributes to around 41% of all electricity worldwide. Our reliance on this non-renewable resource is a very sharp double-edged knife because as we move closer to its total depletion, which for those of you who don’t know is estimated to be the year 2088, the use of coal has also resulted in two-thirds of our global greenhouse gas emissions.
The fact is, we have spent years poisoning ourselves and the planet, and no one seems to care enough to act.
Long before we run out of coal, we will run out of drinkable water. Water is actually a resource the earth won’t run out of for roughly 5 billion years because it never leaves the planet and the earth recycles it. Interesting hey!
The challenge is usable water, the stuff we can drink, and there is less than 3 % of this on earth. It is predicted that in 30 years’ time we are going to need twice as much water.
Dubai has oil, but it has no natural water. The country literally burns oil in one way or another to make water, and, nearly 99% of its water comes from desalination plants. Coincidentally, I wrote this paragraph while flying over Dubai. Anyway, let me not digress.
One day, Dubai will run out of oil and then what. Import it?
Is their solution sustainable?
Of course not.
Sustainability is such an important word to keep in mind with everything we do from now on. It takes 1500 litres to create 1kg of wheat, and 16 000 litres for 1kg of meat.
This is not, and has actually never been sustainable.
We don’t have the water, we don’t have the land, and even if we did, let us not forget that up and until now, we have not shared them.
I need to make this point very clear now, so please let this sink in:
Government is not the issue.
You vote them in…
We, as humans, do not like to share. This is a sad fact.
Consider quickly that there used to be many hominin species, and they all lived side-by-side. Our species only really arrived 200 000 years ago. Today, there are three distinct hominin species. There was a 4th not so long ago called the hobbits, they are gone now as well…
Many educated people believe the other species died because they could not adapt to things such as climate change. We survived because we had something they did not, allowing us to adapt faster, and there is some evidence to support this claim.
Extinction, by the way, is a natural part of this planet, but we had some advantages, made some tools, we fed ourselves, we created some territories, developed trade with limited resources, and ever since then we really have not changed much.
Extinction is natural… the difference, I guess, for us is, that we might be the first species to create our own doom?
I don’t know how we sleep at night knowing, that although it is well within our power to resolve, there are over 2 billion malnourished people, and out of them, 800 million people are starving. That is almost four times South Africa’s entire population going hungry.
None of us like to see pictures like the one below. But do you have any idea how many children are like this! Four entire South Africas! It is not acceptable! And we ignore it, and close the website.
In order to meet the challenges of the future, we must accept that as a species, ethics has been traded in for the dollar, and admit we have chosen to be like this.
Unfortunately, not everyone has the dollar to play with, or even the Rand, and there are 200 million unemployed people worldwide. If we add those people to the starving, we have 1 billion people in trouble. That is one-seventh of our entire species!
One report I read, said that we need to create 500 million jobs within the next two years in order to reverse our unemployment statistics. That target is mind-blowing and I don’t think it will be achieved. Realism is the only way to tackle the mess we are in.
I detest when people ignore problems. It is one of the key points I make to my staff. You can’t fix a problem if you deny it, and you can’t fix a new problem with old tools.
As a species, we might need new tools, such as new Greentech, and we should also consider evolving into another system of trade, one that does not rely on paid jobs. I fully support a collaborative consumption society. While I believe this is what will happen in many years to come, we need to take a few stepping stone advances and tackle each problem with custom solutions. For example, the wind farm sector directly or indirectly employs almost 110 000 people annually, and this industry is in its infancy, helping employment.
Cryp%^&urrency is another tech that needs to be embraced for more than its function. It is the only solution that could almost instantly boost trade and inclusivity. Will the USA or UK ever drop their own currency? No… but would it help trade? Yes…
Again, that nasty fact pops up - we are all about self-preservation.
We need to have more power shared. This brings me to another very important word here: distribution.
Not only of power, and money, and resources, but of ideas as well.
The challenge of a global distribution plan without too much disruption to our current structures is no easy task.
There is no one-glove-fits-all plan and every region of every nation has to come up with the best solution for their area. That means the real work is going to take place at ground root level, with each one of us.
Learning to work together is not one of our greatest strengths, and to make it even more complicated, the goals we are trying to achieve are an ever-moving target.
The European Union has adopted a clear trend of promoting policies around investment and financing solutions for sustainable energy.
South Australia has the highest take-up per capita of household solar panels and its very own climate change minister. By the way, South Africa, this is not an invite to get yet another minister! Although I can’t imagine anyone volunteering for that job title, after all, making it your job to get people to share ideas, technology, concepts, and challenge or disrupt current social norms, even pushing boundaries with religion, while balancing environmental, social and economic sustainability, and ushering in a new world of Future Thinkers is not an easy meal ticket.
Just like the internet, the unstoppable non-governmental, world movement, which will have a trillion sensors or devices connected in the next decade, Greentech will also influence trade, business, and governance. And there is a new type of business person, or perhaps even a leader being born from these challenges. I believe myself to be one of them because I cannot see these changes as anything other than opportunity.
This opportunity has to be seen, that is the first step and then embraced as a second step. After all, you could have all the innovation and new tech in the world, but if it is not used by the masses it could be classified as an unsuccessful solution.
I know I share this outlook with thousands of others, and it is evident in the interest in one of the most promising universal solutions; that being sustainable and renewable green power and technologies. You don’t have to take my word for it, just take a look where the money is flowing.
While my research suggests the majority of investment is being spent at a local level on materials to build and manage facilities related to green solutions by whoever is managing the project, it has created enough of a stir to grab the attention of some local governments.
I would say the attention was sparked because this new sector is creating green jobs, and not just a few hundred, but millions, with one report I read purporting the renewable energies industry provides over 10 million jobs internationally.
One other positive spin-off effect to these projects is that they reduce the burden on local government resources, and in general help the country improve its independence.
There are so many examples of funds being channelled toward Greentech.
The USA has spent over $1 billion of federal money on research and development of hydrogen and a medium for energy to store it. In 2017 it spent $1.4 billion on natural gas efficiency programs alone. Bloomberg New Energy Finance report advised they spent nearly $243 billion on wind farms, solar power, electric cars, and other alternative related projects.
Brazil, which has double our population, is expected to spend $67 billion between the years of 2010 and 2020 on related solutions.
The Chinese government has plans for a hydrogen-powered tram technology, at cost of around $32 billion!
These are not small amounts of money.
India is another rising clean energy leader based on research, but I don’t have any figures at this point to share.
The United Nations Environmental Programme has a loan program with good rates to loans for initial set-up costs for energy solutions.
Money is starting to pour in, and I believe if entrepreneurs are clever they can get on this gravy train. Remember to do good! The one report I read predicted that there will be a growth of additional Greentech startups, mostly in Europe, with an estimated investment of around $13.6 billion! There is no reason why we can’t catch this train.
The major problem with rollout is adoption. Like cryptocurrency, which is a wonderful solution, there is little adoption in the mainstream, which means once you have the currency, there are very few places to spend it. We need a market place to develop for Greentech quickly.
I mentioned Dubai earlier, and the fact that they are using oil in their water supply process, and that it was not going to be sustainable, aside from the obvious negative effects of burning fossil fuels.
There are other countries trying a different approach like Israel who use manufactured water to supply two-thirds of the country with water. It does this through projects for recycling wastewater and desalination of brackish water. This is only made possible by the use of advanced Greentech and a government that has embraced the solution. Israel is now able to preserve its rivers and lakes.
Adoption is a good word to use for what needs to happen and I believe this to be the main point of my article. We all need to adopt a green approach from now on, and unfortunately people don’t like to do something unless it has a benefit for them, preferably an immediate one.
There are immediate benefits! Like reduced power bills.
There will also be some good mid-term ones, like healthier foods and more jobs.
The long term benefit will be that our children and their children will be far healthier and happier, and not a generation fighting over water and clean air. I know this sounds sensationalist, but can you try to be a Future Thinker for just a moment… what do you think is going to happen?
Our generation needs to go through a process in the next 10 years or so, to have our way of life reset. We will be the generation that saves the earth or dooms it, and I wish we had more time, but we don’t.
Media, celebrities, government, religious leaders, everyone needs to take part and promote a new way of living.
It is equally important that we start this dance off on the correct foot, otherwise we could slow down progress. For example, let’s look at the solar power solutions already in play, and how to deal with the business end of them.
There is the subsidised Solar Parity, where the user is paying a third party, with a solar price at par or less than the utility prices. The user thinks the power costs less, and at the same time they are helping the environment. Unfortunately this is not the case. The actual cost of generation of the solar electricity is much higher, for example, users in the USA are subsidized by a 30% rebate in the form of federal tax credits and tax saving via accelerated depreciation. This means the state is paying for usage.
This is fake progress.
Then there is Unsubsidized Solar Parity, and in this situation, the solar power is priced without subsidies. For now, the costs are slightly higher for the user, or at least market competitive, for the USA anyway. In South Africa, it would probably work out the same or a little less because we pay so much for power.
Unsubsidized Solar Parity is only possible with suppliers and infrastructure in place, which is not possible in South Africa, because of, let’s call it ‘resistance’.
There are places this solution does work, for example in southern California or even New York.
We can’t go from coal to green in one step, and there will be a phasing in process, and again using the USA as an example, they in some parts with their local government formed regional power purchasing groups with the support of communities, and have achieved a 51% usage of greener solutions. This is wonderful work.
It is not only the USA taking steps; there are other countries, like the Netherlands, where electricity companies guarantee to buy an equal amount of 'green power'.
Brazil has one of the largest renewable energy programs in the world, using ethanol fuel from sugar cane, and they have derived 18% of the country's automotive fuel from this.
People, communities, towns, countries and even companies have to play a role. Take Google's lead. They have built their own facilities and recycle all of the equipment leaving their data centers. They have also created an entirely wind-powered data center.
Apple and Amazon are following the example and there appears to be a type of battle over data center efficiency. Apple has recently filed for patents for proprietary wind turbine technology. Open source tech is really what the world needs at the moment, but I do understand Apple’s need to protect its investment. Tech that is more efficient is good business.
Greentech is the only solution, not only for our energy needs of the future, but any sort of responsible existence of our species.
Let’s get onto some technical points…
Greentech and Renewable Options as the Only Solution.
Let me make a quick reference to something referred to as the Money Metaphor which describes the difference between "sustainable" and "renewable".
If energy or tech were money, a renewable source of income is one that would recur, like a salary, while a non-renewable resource would be non-repeating, like receiving an inheritance.
Green Renewable or Green Sustainable Tech, by my definition, simply uses new or improved technology which is more efficient than its predecessor, or non-tech solution.
Another example: we need to solve the problem of space exploration, where we cannot reuse parts of the spaceship, making this type of tech non-renewable. If we have a spaceship that could take off and land, and repeat the steps, it would become a renewable tech. I could talk about spaceships a lot more; perhaps I’ll tackle this in a future article.
Efficiency is the catchword for everything; energy efficiency, tech efficiency, people efficiency. Any solution that makes provisions for ecology, economics, politics and culture while ensuring energy that can be naturally replenished, preferably with a technology that has greater energy efficiency than its predecessor, and of course is a tech with longevity.
Let’s get into some examples of these solutions, terms, and types of power options available.
Green-chemistry which is about the invention, design, and application of chemical products to reduce or even eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances.
Green energy is a common phrase, and is energy that can be extracted or generated, and/or consumed without any significant negative impact to the environment, so this is a solution that provides the highest environmental benefit, like hot water from natural hot water springs.
Sustainable energy can be different to green energy. It is a solution that is consumed at insignificant rates compared to its supply. So a solution that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability to produce, and can be used for the foreseeable future. Like power from the sun. The sun will eventually run out… however we will never be able to use all of its energy.
Renewable energy can also be different. All energy sources which can be naturally replenished are considered to be renewable energy sources. So any energy production from things like hydropower, biomass, geothermal power, solar heating or cooling, wind power, and modern forms of bioenergy and solar photovoltaics are renewable energy. I am aware there is a debate on what is truly renewable, and I believe that debate centres on the interpretation of scientific theories regarding energy itself, and even matter. However, most will say the types of energy I just mentioned do not have a fixed quantity, and therefore more can always be generated.
Then there is the argument, which I support, that energy cannot be created, only transferred. Therefore a source can run out, as nothing has infinite energy or mass in the universe. Then there is the argument that the universe is expanding, and making more energy.
Some believe there is more than one universe. So really, it’s relative.
However, for the purpose of this article, let’s just say this type of energy is one with a rate of use that does not exceed the rate of renewal. So another type of sustainable energy… in a greater abundance.
Finally, we have alternative energy. For example Biomass briquettes are an alternative to charcoal. This solution uses briquettes with 70% the calorific value of charcoal. This of course is not sustainable or even a good tech. But it is a lesser of two evils.
We have several main categories of types of power, and there are some grey areas in between all of them. We don’t need to get bogged down with this. As long as we remember that in the future, no matter what we do, it just needs to be more efficient. For example implementation and distribution of the power. As an example, it is wonderful to use solar power, but it is not helpful if you have to spend hundreds of thousands to distribute the power, and the entire process has a great carbon footprint than the alternatives.
Now not to further complicate things, but each category can have several subcategories and varieties of producing power, some shared with other main categories depending on several factors. Again, don’t get bogged down with this, but let me give you some examples of ‘generating’ power. It is also interesting that just about all solutions involve the sun, either directly or indirectly.
Coal Power Station
We all know this is old tech, so I’m not going into this now.
Osmotic Power, salinity gradient power, also referred to as blue energy, is power produced from the difference in the salt concentration between seawater and river water. From this we can make Osmotic Power Plants.
Bio Fuels, for cellulosic ethanol biorefineries. We can produce cellulosic ethanol from plant matter. We can use the parts of plants which are inedible and composed mainly of cellulose fibers from the stems and branches. Biomass plant materials are called lignocellulosic biomass and can be used directly via combustion to produce heat, which unfortunately creates pollution, or indirectly after converting it to various forms of biofuel.
Spaced-based Solar Power. Sounds like something from a film, but probably something we need to perfect within the next 20-50 years. Just before you think I am being sensationalist again, I’ll have you know that Japan and China have active programs already, and both plan to have some solutions in orbit by the 2030s. The concept is simple. Most of the sun’s energy is wasted … so if we can catch it, convert to microwaves from earth-orbiting satellites or the moon, then we can send it back to the earth as, and when, needed. Excellent!
Solar Power. The sun emits more energy in one second than all the energy available in all of the fossil fuels on earth. We don’t use enough of it, and we don’t know how to capture it all yet. For now we have photovoltaic solar energy, we can directly transform solar radiation into electricity using photovoltaic cells. We can also use panels to heat water.
Solar Floating Solar Tech, solar power solutions that we put on water - helpful if you have run out of space on land.
Artificial photosynthesis, power also from the sun, similar to how plants work, we use nanotechnology-based solutions to split water into hydrogen fuel, which is an alternative fuel source.
Hydrogen Power. I have a problem with this option as it requires a lot of extra power to make it, for now anyway.
Regardless, we must investigate all solutions, and this option cannot be discounted yet because like sunlight, there is a lot of it, in fact, it is the most abundant element in the universe. Unfortunately… there is very little ‘free hydrogen’ available on earth. It can be burned as a fuel, similar to a combustion engine in a car, but really not the same at all, because only water comes out as a by-product. Toyota is the only auto manufacturer to develop a hydrogen car called the Mirai.
The solution of course can be adapted to more than cars, for example China’s first hydrogen-powered tramcar, which, once completed, will use hydrogen tanks and be able to run at speeds of up to 100 kilometers per hour.
Hydro Power. Popularly known for impressive large damn walls which are testaments to our engineering abilities, the dams trap water and then release it through its systems to generate power when needed. These are costly to set up, but have excellent output, and low maintenance costs. Thailand for example gets most of its power in this way. Unfortunately, you need the right location, and rainfall is also rather important.
Water Turbulent Turbines. These are small turbines with a low carbon footprint, so unlike a hydro damn, you can add it to a small river, disrupting very little of nature. Brilliant solution for smaller communities.
Sticking with water power, Power of the Sea, or Tidal Power. There are two solutions here: thermal energy from the sun’s heat, and mechanical energy from the motion of tides and waves. Portugal has the world's first commercial wave farm called the Aguçadora Wave Park.
Wind Power. Wind energy can be used to pump water or generate electricity, unfortunately it requires large areas of land, and can really hurt wildlife! A wind farm can have hundreds of wind turbines, and as you can imagine would not be a good place for birds. Next to solar and hydropower solutions, wind power is still the option at the top of the list because it generates power at the fraction of the cost of many other solutions.
High Altitude Wind Turbines. Unlike normal wind turbines… these units are stationed much higher up, some not even attached to the ground. Some of these options are more affordable and stronger, therefore in many ways more efficient. They also catch the more constant winds founds at higher altitudes.
Power from the Earth’s Core, called Geothermal. Basically, we are sitting on a hot steaming pot of heat, which we can use. A very hot pot. There is a solid ball of super-hot metals like iron and nickel, simmering at around 6000 degrees.
In certain areas the geothermal energy can be used to generate electricity when it reaches the surface. Unfortunately this solution is limited to a few spots around the planet because there are many technical problems.
Another option is to go down and get the heat, and when you consider that soil everywhere around the world at a certain depth stays at a relatively constant temperature, we can use this as a reliable power source by using heat pumps. There is new tech under investigation, like the one that uses Graphene. This is a type of material the conducts heat very well and could be used at micro scales to heat homes. I personally have the concern that if we use too much of the heat and the earth’s core cools down, our magnetic shield around the planet would collapse, and then all hell on earth would break out. I think this is actually what happened to superman’s planet which eventually imploded on itself before exploding into space. Scientifically possible.
Power from Gravity. For some time, I thought this was very much my idea! Unfortunately someone had it before me. One great example of this solution is actually here in South Africa, using our mine shafts. Unfortunately, it is not a homegrown project; instead it is the initiative of a UK-based energy startup called Gravitricity’s green energy technology.
This concept is so simplistic, which is probably why it will work! It uses gravity and a massive weight system. Basically something heavy falls down the mine shaft, I assume, attached to a dynamo on a pulley system of sorts.
Methane Hydrate. This is simply ice that burns. It is cool to watch! Heat obviously can be transferred into a power source.
Algae Fuel. No solution that is good can avoid the disgusting stuff entirely. Algae has a natural oil content greater than 50%. It has been suggested that algae ponds at wastewater treatment plants can be used. Their oil would have multiple powering possibilities.
Thorium fuel. Fission is used in just about all the world’s nuclear power plants. The solution of nuclear power is highly debated at political and social levels, mainly due to risk, costs, and what to do with the waste disposal.
Thorium is a fissionable material that can be used in thorium-based nuclear power plants. The thorium fuel cycle has several potential advantages over an uranium (old school power plant) fuel cycle, including greater abundance and it also has superior physical and nuclear properties, which I have to assume (because I am not a scientist) makes it easier to control, and perhaps also generates more power.
Human Power. This idea freaks me out, but the fact is we have billions of people on earth, and each of us generates electricity. Our brains especially.
The concept is not new, and is actually the foundation in the storyline of the movie The Matrix where the machines use humans to power their energy needs.
Now I have no intention of allowing myself to be plugged in for power, or any other reason, but there are certain fabrics already available that can generate electricity from us if we wear them, using the magic of kinetic energy. These same outfits could do other things as well such as monitor health and even power our phones.
Sticking with power made by humans, but solutions not attached to us, and a cool tech example I found during my research is something called energy harvesting technology. An example of this tech is wood pulp that uses nano fibers in wooden floorboards to generate electricity from footsteps. All we need to do is add these floors to high traffic areas, and we can generate power.
Smart Technology. While this is not technically a power source, it is about new or improved tech that works more efficiently delivering or using power.
Many of these techs are still in the development phase but some have been around for some time now like the LED light bulbs.
Or, consider double-pane windows which is a technology, and controls natural light more efficiently, therefore controlling temperature.
Another example would be the change from 4G to 5G, which other than the obvious benefits of increased data speed, means less energy is used in delivering this. 5G can power down its usage depending on demand. The change from 4G to 5G also means less energy and space used, therefore it is more efficient technology.
I could go on and on with examples, but I trust you have a good idea now. Let’s discuss some Greentechs being used today.
Examples of Greentech and Solutions
Let me give you some examples across several varieties.
Plastic. There is a bioplastic company based in Israel that produced an anaerobic digestion process and can turn municipal waste into a useful material within 72 hours. Amazing.
Oolu Solar in Senegal. This off-grid solar company in West Africa offers energy alternative solutions to 150 million people who would otherwise be living without electricity in West Africa. This is how Greentech can improve the lives of those without services. Their solution works well and I chose to mention it because their solution is married with an affordable financing plan which solves another problem, which is the ability to pay for the solutions available.
We need to prepare solutions from not only a product need perspective, but also with the challenges facing the potential users. There is an entire untapped market out there, worth billions. Nigeria alone has a market worth $2 Billion annually for Solar Home Systems.
Another example of a company that merges its solution with a payment plan is M-Kopa, and they sell solar home systems to low-income earners by allowing them to pay in instalments over the course of a year using mobile money. Mobile money, or cell phone payments in trade is a major market in Africa.
M-Kopa was founded in 2011, and their system relies on a patented mobile payment structure with a pay-as-you-go business model, which in short requires a year’s worth of regular payments, then the customers receive full ownership of the system. The company has spread its solution to other countries like Uganda and Tanzania.
Solar Water Purifiers, these devices work through the processes of evaporation and UV radiation, and there are many varieties. An example of a solution developed and manufactured by an Australian company, is a low-maintenance solution with the ability to purify vast amounts of water, including seawater to the quality levels set by the World Health Organization. These systems can be built at large scale near the sea, or even as a micro solution for small communities with access to rivers and small lakes.
Mobile Solar Cell Phone Kiosk
This is a similar solution you might find at a modern airport, except this device you find this in the middle of nowhere, like a small community in Rwanda.
The World Bank estimates that less than 25% of the Rwandan population has access to electricity. Such poor stats are common in Africa.
This solution is a little business as well. The station is towed by a bicycle and once parked provides charging for up to 80 phones at once, using the sun as its power supply.
Sticking with Rwanda, Mobisol’s Solar Home System, is a company that has partnered with a major mobile phone service provider in Africa, MTN, to introduce a 600Wp Solar School System to power eight schools in rural Rwanda. The company also reportedly has installed over 85 000 solar home systems to households and businesses in East Africa. I am fairly certain I saw their display at the Cape Town Convention Centre at an exhibition I went to in the later months of 2018, one of the many events I still need to write about, I just struggle with time.
Shakti Energy is a South African startup. The Nuru LED light is mobile, and costs less than R200. Shakti Energy also distributes the Nuru PowerCycle, which looks like the cycling machines at gym, and uses human pedal power to recharge the device. The Nuru PowerCycle is the world’s first commercially available pedal generator, and you can see who the owners are at a glance, not only because they are well lit, but they also rather fit.
This might sound like a craft from a spaceship movie, sending the human race to another galaxy, but what this is actually is a system similar to the Tesla Powerwall and also uses lithium-ion batteries to store renewable energy. Its usages are vast. The example in the image is an old land rover now running on electricity.
African Clean Energy is one of my favourites, because it took a real local challenge, applied some basic science, and a solution was born- this time, in the small African landlocked country of Lesotho.
The solution is called the ACE1 Ultra-Clean Biomass Cookstove, which burns any type of biomass both cleanly and smoke-free. Equally impressive, the tech can be used indoors.
The device reduces fuel at about 70% while saving around 50% of costs.
In addition, the stove produces electricity as well. So you can cook, with a light and charge your cell phone, all while using less natural resources, in a cleaner and more efficient way. This is a wonderful product.
Quaint Global Energy Solutions. This company has been given a rather important accreditation, and in 2015 was featured on the Forbes list of Five African Cleantech startups. Well done guys! Or Gals? Regardless, they are a Nigerian company that develops renewable power projects and provides solar energy solutions to rural Nigeria. They are reportedly working with California-based Tetra Tech on a project, and once it is completed, it is expected to provide 50 megawatts of clean energy to the entire state of Kaduna (which is a state in Nigeria)
Toggling back to South Africa, have you heard of Solar Turtle?
This is a complete solution that provides rural communities with a unique solar battery charging station which uses old shipping containers with panels that, once retracted, power the charging systems for batteries stored inside recycled bottles. Customers can collect their power to go. Well done to the solution founder, James Van Der Walt. Or should I say James Van Der Watt?
Moving onto some gadgets that are already on the market, like the SunStashMax, which is not a very powerful sunscreen, but rather a commercially available solar powering device for items such as cell phones. You can buy many of these products and have them delivered to your door.
How about the iZen Bamboo Bluetooth Keyboard? As the name suggests, it’s a keyboard, but made 92% of bamboo.
Ortarkey Chair. I love this one. I believe it should be installed at all old age homes, and is basically a rocking chair that generates power when in use.
Solar Boats. Boats for transport are a great solution. There are boats available now that are fully solar powered, which gives them unlimited range.
This image might look like a very odd Christmas tree, but it is not, and in some parts of the world a rather common sight.
It is callled the Aeroleaf, and it is a biometric wind turbine.
The cost, I think, is a little high at $37,000, but the savings in free electricity will pay off eventually. The unit is a 26-foot high structure that uses tiny blades which do not require high speed winds; therefore this solution is ideal for cities.
Also ideal for cities, why not consider the ELF? This is a bi-power (solar and pedal-powered) tricycle. It is hand-built in the United States by Organic Transit. Other than the obvious benefits around health and no use of coal, the product is legally considered a bicycle, so it can be used on bike paths, parks and sidewalks and requires no registration or insurance.
What about the office or sports field?
This little green thing is called the Eco Button.
It reduces your computer’s power usage. Simply press the button when you leave your computer, perhaps for a smoke or the bathroom, and the gadget puts your computer into its best power-saving mode.
The Pavegen Vibration Collector, can be found in Rio de Janeiro, a newly-installed football field that provides electricity for the neighbourhood using a clever type of AstroTurf which converts the player’s movement from kinetic energy into electricity through 200 hidden energy-capturing tiles. Brilliant!
I would like to now bring the subject home, and share some relevant information on our local situation.
Let me start by saying that there are a lot of people at risk in Africa, and one report I read, it said our population is going to move from the 1 billion to 2 billion mark very soon.
86% of Africa’s biomass energy is used in the sub-Saharan region, excluding South Africa.
Do people not know about alternative power?
I met someone from South Africa the other day that didn’t even know we had a nuclear power station. How is that possible?
Africa’s current economic growth rate is extremely low. It is in some places it can be considered in reverse. Money is important, because if we are not paying for our necessities, no one is going to spend on Greentech, which is a major concern considering our industrial development has stalled since the 1970s.
We have so many other distracting issues like poverty, hunger, poor education, poor health, violence, and so forth.
In South Africa, we have a power problem, not only in supply but also management. An example, I am personally fighting with the City of Johannesburg for a R120 000 power bill in someone else’s name, on another plot, with another account number, but they turned off the power at my property. When I contacted the Call Centre, it was closed due to labour action. This sort of poor management puts South African people and businesses at ransom and prohibits our ability to progress on any scale.
Each year more people are living in urban slums. We were not prepared for urbanization, and by 2030, more than 50% of our continent’s population will be found in cities.
We are selling our land, our people, our opportunities, all for quick capital investment… and none of these actions are sustainable.
We have too much public debt, shifting powers, our own climate change challenges, stress on resources, and basically a fractured continent.
I read in one report that Africa will one day, in the not too distant future, be divided into three rivaling parts; generally speaking the North, West and South of the 8.
I’m sorry if the above has made you feel awful. Let me move onto more positive information.
Solar power is a major focus in Africa. We have so much sunlight! There are several small grid-linked solar power stations, including the photovoltaic 250 kW Kigali Solaire station in Rwanda.
The Desertec Project, another initiative backed by non-African organisations, using several European energy companies and banks, plans to generate renewable electricity from the Sahara desert and distribute it through a high-voltage grid, unfortunately, they have plans to export to Europe.
Power Up Gambia is a non-profit organisation operating in The Gambia that uses solar power technology as a solution to power Gambian health care facilities. Excellent! Making it and keeping it in Africa.
It is an interesting fact that solar power can also help with the challenge of water shortages in Africa, through solar water pumping. Places like Kenya already benefit from this sort of solution which is supported by its progressive and relatively well-funded department of agriculture, for example the Kenya Agricultural Research Center.
Southern Africa has its own network of information sharing called SEARNET, which informs farmers of techniques to catch and store rainwater. This is an excellent example of cooperation and sharing.
We have the C40 South Africa Buildings Programme. The project is led by C40 in partnership with SEA, an organization I will mention again a little later in this article. The objective of this project is to speed up the implementation of energy efficiency policies and programs for buildings in SA and the end goal is to have a net zero carbon performance rating. This means cities will be required to develop new building codes with a lot of attention already given to eThekwini, Tshwane, Johannesburg and Cape Town
There is REIPPP, reportedly a highly successful program, which stands for Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme that has been rolled out in 4 phrases.
In phase one there were 19 projects, phase two 28 projects, phase three 17 projects and in the final phase 26 projects, with an investment of R194 billion. YAY, some big money being spent!
Or is it?
While this sounds like a lot, it is unfortunately not, but it is a good start.
These funds have come from private entities and banks, I am disappointed there was no reference to government subsidies for this program within my research.
I found some further information on some of their projects, including the 96MW (DC) Jasper Solar Energy Project, the 75MW (DC) Lesedi PV project, and the 75MW(DC) Letsatsi PV Project, and I was shocked to read all are developed by the American company called SolarReserve.
Clearly local and our national government are not spending enough yet.
Wind Farms. The entire western coast of Africa has substantial resources exceeding 3,750 kW-hours, and anyone who has walked in Blouberg in Cape Town will not argue this fact.
The Koudia Al Baida Wind Farm in Morocco is the biggest in Africa but there are two other very big ones under construction in Tangier and Tarfaya.
Kenya is building a wind farm. Kenya has popped up so much in my research. I really would like to receive an invite from their organisations to see some of their good work first hand.
REIPPP has led to several wind farms already in commercial operation in provinces of the Eastern, Northern and Western Cape. 10 are operational, and another 12 more are approved to go online in the future. I wonder who has funded those?
Geothermal power is concentrated in Eastern Africa, with enormous potential for geothermal solutions near the East African Rift which is roughly 5900 kilometers long, and, that gives many of our continent’s countries such as Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Uganda, and Zambia access, to name a few.
Kenya has once again come up tops, and exploited the geothermal potential of the Great Rift Valley. There is an estimated power supply of 10 000 MW of geothermal energy. They were the first country in Africa to adopt geothermal energy as far back as 1956 and have the largest geothermal power plant on the continent, called the Olkaria II.
As an early adopter of geothermal power, Kenya now has financial backing from the World Bank. The early bird gets the worm.
Building. Although no formal statistics are available, the building and construction materials market is estimated at about $10 billion per annum so I thought I might share this company’s website which I found during my research: https://greenfin.co.za/. Please have a look, they support finance for green solutions for property and assets.
Another company I found is www.housezero.co.za who build entire houses focused around Greentech. Their houses look really good as well. I’ve made contact with them, I hope they respond. I would love to test out one of their houses and offer feedback for you all.
It is a sad fact that South Africa’s uptake of Greentech is behind that of our BRICS partners. I really do believe we should be leading this movement.
Green technologies are hindered by red tape, paperwork, long application processes, with multiple agencies, and a shortage of skills for processing applications. Some branches of government are moving backwards, and making the solutions more costly... cough cough… city of Cape Town, with their fines related to solar panels. At no time, should Greentech have any extra charges added above them, under any circumstances.
Should I be surprised or concerned then that SEA reportedly only has 14 full-time staff members and their main donor are Danish and British? SEA stands for Sustainable, Energy, Africa. Their main achievements appear to include a lot of work in The Western Cape, some meetings, workshops, books and manuals. Let me not bash their good work. They must have their hands very full with so few people working in their office, and, trying to change the mindset of 54 million is no small task. Perhaps they can bring me on board to boost their awareness using the internet?
Related to them, and if you have time, please see some interesting extra information at: www.cityenergy.org.za/tomorrows-cities
I know we do have the Department of Environmental Affairs, and they did have a report about their established the Green Fund, and at the time of this article have spent R1.1 billion.
I did also find reports suggesting much higher investments, some reporting as much as R136 billion for the South African economy related to the Greentech industry, but I am not sure on what projects specifically, or where the funds are coming from.
The National Development Plan says that by 2030, South Africa will have made headway in transitioning towards environmentally sustainable programs, and this will be done by convening a series of high-level dialogue talks with stakeholders to build consensus on the vision, and develop long-term pathways. This I can assure you is not being done at the level, or with the aggression, required.
I don’t know a single private company owner who has been invited to some talks regarding these pathways. If you do, please send a message and share details with me.
We have the South African Climate Change Bill. This will require an entire separate article from me. I am glad we have a bill at least.
Also requiring another article from me will be China in Africa … I will be in China in February 2019 to work on this article.
In short, our projects and programs are not getting support from the government; in fact, we should have an independent branch of government in each city supporting projects, funding and awareness.
What can we do now?
It is very simple. Change.
Did you know that South Africa is the richest country in the world?
If we changed the way we did things to become more efficient and self-reliant, and supported local projects and used the resources we had in a sustainable and renewable way, we would become a positive global influence. We have not reached our potential because we are far too busy fighting with one another about less important things.
Each and every person has to change their way of thinking. Then entire organizations, communities, governments, and corporates need to do the same. There are so many things we can do today to get going. Constructive debate is one of them. Even reading this article is going to help you, and your family, so well done!
Now, also consider some of these ideas.
Consider the use of Energy Star Certified office equipment. They use less energy to perform regular tasks, and when not in use, automatically enter a low-power mode.
The next time you need to install lights or upgrade power systems, look at tech like Energy Power Strips which turn off appliances that aren’t being used after a certain amount of time.
For big properties, an energy management system is a must. You might be put off by the cost, but remember there are some incentives, look out for local equivalents like green energy tax credits. You might get lucky with a local government incentive. In the end, they all pay for themselves because of less costly bills related to the supply they manage. It’s about a mindset and diverting funds to the cause.
Purifying Tech. Last night I walked over some drains in Phuket, and the smell is so bad. I hope that they use this type of technology soon. There are viable Green technology solutions to purify water at a variety of scales. The availability of drinking water should be a major concern for us all. The same goes for air. Carbon emission from cars and factories, are highly detrimental to all living things. Again, there are Green technology solutions to help reduce carbon emissions, and then there are some that also purify the air. Seriously, get onto Google, and see what is available for your home and office. It might even be as simple as some special indoor plants and filters for your aircon.
People and Their Habits. Employees can make a difference as well. Use power management settings on your computer and monitor and unplug things. Adapters that are plugged in still use energy. This only happens if you make it happen, and people develop a habit. This requires some nagging, but so what! The future is at stake, money is to be saved, and animals need a home as well.
Keep it Local. Think about telecommuting, using Google Hangouts and other collaborative features that reduce the need for travel. This reduces CO2 emissions. I offer work-from-home policies with my staff, which reduces my company's carbon footprint, and I am sure my staff prefers it.
Try Never Buying a Printer Again! I am very sorry to the printing companies for saying this. But we need to come up with some smarter ideas. Printing on mashed tree is so last decade! I tried to get rid of all my printers, but the one I have I am stuck in with a 3-year lease agreement. Cloud technology and data storage, Greentech you can use already.
Embrace Corporate Social Responsibility and become an example.
Invest in products that do not require major construction or maintenance. Some products have a longer shelf life. Some use parts that are recycled. Some use less power. If you must, pick the lesser of the evils.
One very good idea is to simply purchase a local equivalent product, because by the very nature of it not being an import, it means it has less of a carbon footprint as it did not need to travel large distances to get to you.
Refurbishments. Build and upgrade with better things. For example, consider bamboo flooring! Yes, bamboo again. It is a highly renewable natural resource that is very durable, moisture-resistant and looks cool.
With some research I know you would be surprised how many alternative solutions are available for most home and office upgrades. Give it a try.
For replacing flooring alone I found a full page on Google, and if you don’t like bamboo, why not try Fiberon composite, which is a recycled flooring. Make smart choices, for in and outside the house, such as not buying thirsty plants for your garden. Perhaps bite the bullet and get fake grass.
I believe all of us need to come to terms with the fact that the homes we have now, are not going to look like the homes of the future.
Why not be a trend starter?
Get Solar Panels. Honestly, this should go without mentioning. I will be doing this in 2019. You don’t need to power the entire house, but do it for at least some of your hot water or power needs. There are some cool products out there if you want to go big, or special, like the Smartflower which is transportable and is made for the home, and it protects and even cleans itself.
Don’t Let it Wash Away. Installing a rainwater harvesting system saves an enormous amount of tap water and completes the rain cycle in an efficient manner. It also helps you become more independent of municipalities. Your toilet uses more water than any other fixture in your home, so a simple change to a dual low-flush toilet allows you to choose how much water you use each time you flush, and, if you can connect it to your harvesting system you can expect a good savings on your water bill.
When available, move to a Geothermal Heat Pump. This pulls heat from underground. I know this is not available in South Africa yet, but one day, and hopefully soon, we will have tech like the Vuilleumier Heat Pump available. It provides a 30 to 50% reduction in energy consumption and costs just by using smart tech.
For now manage your aircon better, even a minor adjustment of the temperature can help, or ensuring when the unit is on that your doors and windows are closed. I had staff who liked to have the aircon on, and windows open. Drove me mad!
Recycling / E-Cycling. This is nothing new, but unfortunately something not everyone has embraced… I am ashamed to admit, I am one of these people. There is no excuse, and Green technology helps manage and recycle waste material.
This is not only about what you do with a product once done, but a consideration at point of purchase, for example many cleaning products are extremely environmentally harmful, not only because of the chemicals in them but also what they are packaged in.
Open a Farm. Home farms or tech like vertical farming is something new for those of you with green fingers needing a new challenge.
Farming no longer requires large gardens or farmland anymore, just some walls. If that does not work for you, you can grow plants indoors as well! For example, in New York City there is a solution which uses 95% less water, no sunlight and it grows crops faster! How and who? The company that does this uses aeroponic technology. At a city scale this removes transport costs which cuts down on the carbon footprint.
There are much smaller solutions we can all work with at home. There is something rewarding about eating something you have personally grown. Give it a try. Green beans and watermelon, I am an expert at growing these!
Rejuvenating Ecosystems. Clean technology can be used to bring dead systems back to life! As mentioned at the start of my article, our ecosystems sustained near irreversible damage due to human actions. Through technology we can reboot dead ecosystems. The earth needs protection and Green technology can help in providing exactly that to the planet we all depend upon in order to live. The way you get involved here is by donating to a related project or cause, or start a tree-a-thon. Find something to help reverse some damage. If we all do one small project a year, 9 billion steps will have been taken! Trust me that will reverse some damage!
Changing people’s mind shifts, at home and work. This is my greatest point. I had a conversation with an 18-year old Brazilian recently, and in part, the discussion was about how I believed “countries” should not exist anymore, and we should have the Global States of Mankind.
I know this sounds farfetched, but through the pride of our nation’s and to protect our own cultures, we are preventing ourselves as a species from surviving into the next 100 years.
People incorrectly believe that by being patriotic or culturally persistent, they are preserving their heritage. This is a false belief. What do you think is going to happen to your culture when there is nowhere for your people to eat? Come on, be a Future Thinker!
In hard times, everyone’s overwhelming survival instincts kick in. Humane and civil practices only live in a stable and mature society. While my point in the conversation with the 18-year old was more about how cryptocurrency is a threat to government’s current order of trade and control, and that it is now an unstoppable force, offering unrestricted trade and dissolve borders, it is also a fact that a lack of resources will also destabilize governments.
Either governments support change, or people will work at becoming independent of the systems, and there will be a revolt.
We will end up with two clear cultures: New Thinkers, and Old Thinkers.
New Thinkers will be able to look after themselves better, develop societies with more relevant education programs, will be able to deploy and use resources more efficiently, be healthier, and ironically enough, the New Thinkers will be in a better position to protect cultures as they will have a more stable environment.
Old Thinkers will be fighting for resources, building walls, and their way of life will be harder and more costly.
Right now, New Thinkers only make up a fraction of our society, and this is the reason for this article, and the work I am doing. I need to find and bring out all those New Thinkers, and get them to work.
A New Thinker does not need to be a millennial, a youngster, a business person, or a religious leader, it can be absolutely anyone who believes as a species we could be doing better, working more efficiently, and using tech when possible to solve some of our challenges. That is all you need to be in order to qualify as a New Thinker.
Change is inevitable.
No wall has stood forever. Sorry America… waste of money.
For too long we have incorrectly believed life revolves around us…
Mr and Miss Universe... the beauty competition, where only one planet exists and participates.
One day we will move from being homosapiens, to homospaciens.
Life if is a remarkable wonder.
So let’s all start today, and become people of the world and use tech to facilitate that!
To end this rather long article of mine, I wanted to share a few quick areas I think we can focus on Greentech solutions to generate business. Anyone interested in a joint venture with me, please make contact.
Please feel free to send any questions or comments. My other articles are at: http://www.jeanpierremurraykline.co.za/mediaarticlesinfoseospecialist.html
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Published January 2019