Youth-led solutions for SA energy challenges

Pretoria – An innovative device by a young woman from the Eastern Cape is proving to be a winner in the country’s efforts to save energy.

Called the Hot Spot, the device can be retrofitted over any standard geyser element to push hot water from the bottom to the top of the geyser using thermosiphon. This provides 50 litres of hot water within 30 minutes at 50C for use by all households and small commercial users.

Over 6 million geysers consume about 40% of the power on South Africa’s electricity grid at an average heating time of up to three hours per month. To date, alternatives coming to the market have proved to be very costly.

The Hot Spot is developed by Amahlathi Eco-Tech (AET), a start-up business led by 34-year-old Sandiswa Qayi, a young black woman in the Eastern Cape.

This innovation has earned the company the Most Promising Youth-led Business Award in this year’s Global Cleantech Innovation Programme for SMEs in South Africa (GCIP-SA). The awards were held in Pretoria on Thursday, 21 October.

The GCIP-SA, implemented by the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), is part of a global initiative that aims to identify and support SMEs and start-ups that provide clean technology solutions focusing on energy efficiency, green buildings, renewable energy, waste beneficiation and water efficiency.

Since 2012, AET has been conducting research, paying particular attention to how to conserve, reuse and develop alternative African solutions to water heating, considering Africa’s climate and socio-economic environment.

Qayi, who has more than five years executive and project management experience in the manufacturing and economic development field, said: “GCIP has taught me the value of thorough understanding and development of a business model through validation. This has enabled AET to develop a sound and bankable business plan.”

In a keynote address at the awards, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor said the GCIP was showcasing South Africa as an innovative nation.

“Innovation adds momentum to the structural economic change that is needed for economic growth, job creation and an improved quality of life for us all.”

The Minister commended the programme for creating a platform for linking South African entrepreneurs with investors, business and commercial partners, potentially resulting in the commercialisation of new products and services, and ultimately job creation.

While South Africa had not done enough to tackle environmental problems like climate change, the Minister said the country had projects in place to meet energy demands in a sustainable way through solar power, electric vehicles and energy storage.

“South Africa’s endowment with world-class solar and wind resources, combined with recent strong cost decreases for solar and wind technologies, makes renewable power generation now a cost-competitive new-build option in the country, and will be one building block in South Africa’s move towards a more diversified energy mix,” said Minister Pandor.

Last week, a new study revealed that new power from solar PV and wind today is at least 40% cheaper than that from new baseload coal today.

The Minister said this implied that the bulk of South Africa’s future energy requirements could be met from wind and solar. This research will play a part in drafting the delayed IRP.

Ecological company takes overall award

This year’s overall GCIP-SA winner is Baoberry, a multi-award winning company specialising in ecological engineering and services. The company is led by Yolandi Schoeman, who has over 10 years’ experience in environmental, waste and water management and ecological engineering.

Baoberry has developed aWetbox, a cost-effective integrated grey water treatment and rainwater harvesting “wetland in a box”, contributing to water optimisation, availability and re-use.

Baoberry also walked away with the Most Promising Woman-led Business special category award.

Runner-up Pamela Alborough’s company, SanAqua HCA, has developed an electronic water treatment component capable of improving treatment of small to large quantities of water, from 1kl/hr up to very large plants.

Thevia, led by actuarial scientist Martin Ackermann, manufactures roof tiles made from 99% waste materials. The tiles weigh a quarter of traditional concrete tiles, but are twice as strong and not brittle. Compared to typical concrete tiles, the price and benefits of Thevia’s tiles provide an 8% -15% cost saving on total roof installation.

Source: South African Government News Agency