Developing a roadmap for plastic waste management

Key role-players in the plastics manufacturing, collection and recycling industries, the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) and other interested parties recently participated in the 2020 Plastics Colloquium feedback session which was held virtually. This was the second Plastics Colloquium following the inaugural event that took place in Johannesburg a year ago and was jointly hosted by DEFF, the Consumer Goods Council of SA, Plastics|SA and the informal sector associations.

The objectives of the annual Plastics Colloquium are:

  • To create a platform for representatives of government, private sector and civil society to engage with one another in order to provide a more effective partnerships with the aim of enhancing plastic waste management
  • To promote discussions between these role-players on sustainable management of plastic waste in the country
  • To create a national platform where information can be exchanged on best practice with regards to plastic waste management
  • To identify key economic opportunities that could be realized from plastic waste and discuss ways in which the informal sector could be incorporated into plastic waste recycling
  • To deliberate mechanisms and technologies for the effective delivery of waste management services by municipalities and other service providers

Six working groups were each afforded an opportunity to present on the progress they have made against the priorities that were agreed to at the 2019 Plastics Colloquium.  Representatives of these working groups offered some insight into the success and challenges being faced with biodegradable and compostable plastics; product standards and certification; product design, development and innovation; integration of the informal waste economy; infrastructure (including SALGA activities); and consumer education and awareness.

“The 2020 Plastics Colloquium feedback session was an important step forward for everybody involved in the plastics value chain. It was hugely encouraging to hear about the impressive progress the various working groups have made this past year despite the huge disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Anton Hanekom, executive director of Plastics|SA.

Hanekom also applauded the clear commitment made by government and all the other stakeholders to work together to find workable and sustainable solutions to prevent plastic waste from ending up in the environment.

“Achieving our objective of zero plastics in the environment is not something that the plastics industry alone can achieve. Finding a solution to the plastics leaking into the environment and ending up in our rivers, streams, and oceans requires teamwork, focus, and dedicated effort from everybody involved.”

Anton Hanekom, executive director of Plastics|SA

Whilst he admits that much work still needs to be done before South Africa reaches the implementation phase, Hanekom added that it was encouraging that the various stakeholders and role players were each willing to take responsibility for a specific section of the plan.

The following were identified as key areas requiring attention during 2021:

  1. Developing a proper municipal collection system with the necessary infrastructure to deal with the waste collected in neighbourhoods, (i.e., landfills, incineration possibilities for plastics that are difficult to recycle, buy-back centres etc.)
  2. The role of reclaimers in the waste management process, with proper consideration and attention given to their relationship with regards to household waste collection and separation, expanded public work programmes and municipal public employment systems;
  3. The role of producers and formalizing them into EPR schemes in order to eliminate the “free riders” who do not financially contribute towards plastic waste collection and recycling the packaging that enters the local market. Where necessary, certain single-use plastics will need to be phased out and replaced with compostable plastics;
  4. Ongoing research by the CSIR to include the use of compostable plastics and waste-to-energy, in order to provide decisionmakers with a clear understanding of how the system works and ensuring that every decision taken in the future is evidence-based;
  5. Building on the work already done by Plastics|SA and the Consumer Goods Council of SA when it comes to educating and informing consumers about the consequences of littering, the importance of recycling and their role in creating a litter-free South Africa.

Minister Barbara Creecy set the 2021 Plastics Colloquium as the deadline by when she will be requiring the various working groups to present a possible system, governance model and financing of the plans.

“Plastic waste has huge value and can create much-needed wealth and opportunities for our country if it is managed correctly. The Minister acknowledged that the plastics sector is way ahead of many of the other sectors in our country. However, we cannot afford to slow down in our efforts to design a clear road map for ending plastic waste in the environment. To this end, we are working with retailers, brand owners, producers, raw material suppliers and recyclers to unite with us around one vision, one message and one campaign,” Hanekom concludes.

For more information, visit www.plasticsinfo.co.za

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Brazil government seeks funding for Amazon rainforest

According to recent reports, the Brazilian government has entered into talks with the German and Norwegian governments about donating funds to protect the Amazon rainforest. This is after only a year that President Jair Bolsonaro refused to accept international donations. 

“They can use this money as they see fit. Brazil doesn’t need it,” Bolsonaro said at the time. 

The Amazon Rainforest has been called the “Lungs of the Earth” due to the forest’s ability to absorb more than 20% of the world’s total carbon dioxide emissions. However, the forest has been slowly chipped away through “slash-and-burn” methods to clear land for livestock, agriculture, mining and logging. 

Last week, it was also announced by the Brazilian had banned fires in the Amazon for at least 120 days while they were in discussions to address the rising concerns for the destruction of the rainforest. 

Critics had criticised Bolsonaro stating that his pro-business policies had weakened the environmental protections and had allowed deforestation to take place. 

2019 Amazon wildfires

In August 2019, there was an international outcry after NASA was able to confirm that there was a drastic increase in these methods and smoke and fire from the forest could be seen in satellite images. The smoke had spread and covered the city of São Paulo which was thousands of kilometres from the Amazon. This corroborated the findings discovered by the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais, INPE) between June and July 2019. 

Near the end of August 2019, the INPE had reported there were more than 80 000 fires across Brazil. At least 40 000 of these fires were in Brazil’s Legal Amazon. This is an area that contains 60% of the Amazon. Fire were reported in the countries of Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru. It is estimated that more than 900 hectares of the forest was in the fires of 2019. 

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Has ESG become the new normal for miners and investment?

The expectations and priorities of a modern-day investor in the mining sector have significantly changed in line with global demand for more responsible and sustainable extraction of mineral resources. Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) standards have firmly established itself across the investment community.  

ESG standards are a must-have for investment

Financial evidence suggests that the ability of a mining business to successfully manage environmental, social and governance risks is directly linked to greater return on investment in the long term. Investor perception has moved away from regarding ESG as a desirable but non-essential component to a “must-have” for de-risking any investment decisions.

The industry has evolved in line with this demand and adopted a set of initiatives identifying the main ESG performance standards along with a variety of self-assessment tools to direct the implementation process.

Mining principles evolved to meet these standards

A prime example is the mining principles initiative recently launched by the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM). The members of ICMM, which include some of the world’s biggest mining companies, don’t get to choose to which assets these principles apply. Covering 38 areas, including biodiversity, gender, human rights due diligence, labour rights, local content, mine closure, pollution, resettlement and waste, they apply to more than 650 of ICMM members’ assets in over 50 countries. Their implementation by member companies — which account for about 30% of global production of major commodities such as iron ore, copper and gold — will drive performance improvements at scale. The initiative also features the standards related to the disclosure of the site-level validation of progress associated with the ESG issues listed above.

Even though the requirements and implementations guidelines greatly vary between different initiatives, there is clearly a global focus on enhancing ESG performance across the sector. It is important to note that the majority of ESG initiatives out there all point towards a universal need to meet the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations. This link is translated through the ability of a mining company to channel their impact investment and contribute to government revenues that support socio-economic transformation.

ESG investment leads to long-term value

As the access to capital presents an increasing challenging for the extractives sectors, competition for investment will force mining companies to move beyond compliance and to demonstrate the ability to meet ESG standards at an operational level. For example, less than 30% of precious metals projects are currently delivered on time, with the primary reason for delay being social opposition. Furthermore, companies adhering to the high levels of ESG performance are significantly more likely to generate long-term value and are less susceptible to stock price volatility.

The development of ESG standards and widespread engagement of the investment community represents a huge opportunity for an increase in impact investment, and an improvement in the responsible mining practices across the globe. However, if this is to become the “new normal”, we need to see an acceleration of the uptake and implementation of ESG standards, initiatives and best practices.

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Covid-19: Keeping Africa fed as the disease bites

By Qu Dongyu, Josefa Sacko and Thokozile Didiza

It takes a village to raise a child, Africans like to say. But you could just as easily argue the opposite: it takes a child to raise a village.

Give a child a school meal. He or she will stay in the classroom and learn. Economic pressure on the family will lessen. Over time, the combined effect of education and good nutrition in young age will ripple through entire communities, fostering healthier, more productive societies. Research sponsored by the African Union suggests that if nations on the continent were free from child malnutrition, they could see their GDP expand by as much as 16%.

Conversely, close the school. Take away that school meal. The family will struggle. The child may suffer from wasting. In the long run, economic vitality will dry up. Societies will shrink. The promise of development will wither, unfulfilled.

Covid-19 forces to schools to close

Like much of the rest of the world, African countries reacted to the Covid-19 crisis by shutting down schools, closing businesses and limiting population movements. Even in rich countries, such measures entail hard choices: in the African context, these are truly agonising. With high levels of food insecurity; large informal labour forces; fragile health systems; scarce welfare provisions; and little budgetary leeway, African nations – many already battling other crises such as Desert Locusts and drought – risk mortgaging their future as they seek to protect their people. 

To avoid irreparable outcomes, Africa’s coronavirus lockdowns need rapid and decisive mitigation. Steps to be taken by governments – with the support of donors, multilateral institutions, NGOs and the private sector – must involve dialling up social protection programmes where they exist and rolling them out where they do not. The need is most acute in the countryside, yet the cities pose the highest risk to social stability: both need urgent attention. Now is the time to hand food or cash directly to households.

The preservation of life and health takes precedence, but food production and livelihoods must come a close second. This is why agricultural activities must be maintained. Borders should be kept open to food and agricultural commodities: Covid-19 must not be allowed to undo the painstaking progress we have witnessed in recent years towards trade liberalisation. 

Need for quality agricultural products

Moreover, no effort should be spared in increasing quantity and improving the quality of agricultural products. Producing more and better entails strengthened capacities. All technical assistance required in that context needs to be provided. Shorter supply chains and innovative marketing tools to link producer and consumer through e-commerce are future-oriented approaches that are needed today. 

Taking all necessary precautions, seeds and planting materials must continue to flow to smallholders; animal feed and veterinary care to communities reliant on livestock; and aquaculture inputs to fish farmers. Agricultural supply chains should be kept alive by any means compatible with health safety concerns. Crop calendars need to be performed on time, otherwise vital harvests may be lost and planting not feasible, further challenging food availability. By the same token, pastoralists – major contributors to food security in parts of Africa – should retain access to pastures.  Emergency strategic food reserves linked to social protection programmes should be monitored and replenished. 

To write off this year’s harvests would be catastrophic. Further: if ever there was an opportunity to tackle post-harvest losses by stepping up investment in storage facilities and refrigeration, this is it. Low energy prices, meanwhile, could offer a historic window for mechanisation.

Possible disruption to food production

Economic forecasts for rich countries suggest GDP could plummet by a third in the second quarter of the year. No nation has the luxury to shrug off such vertiginous slumps. So tight is the margin separating many of Africa’s families from hunger, and so tenuous societies’ defences against disaster, that any failure to act at dawn may result in tragedy by dusk. In this context, African countries should protect, promote and further strengthen interregional trade.

Mindful of the urgency, FAO, AU agriculture ministers and international partners met virtually in mid-April and vowed to minimise disruption to Africa’s food system even as they work to contain the pandemic. This includes keeping the food and farm trade moving across national frontiers; and providing direct support to African citizens – preferably, wherever possible, in the form of electronic cash or vouchers. The European Union, the World Bank and the African Development Bank all pledged billions of US dollars to this effort: this includes both fresh and re-purposed funding and technical assistance.

Our determination stems from experience. The Ebola epidemic caused a severe drop in food output across the areas where it raged. With Covid-19, that distressing precedent may well be outdone. It is not entirely up to us to guard against such a fate. But what is up to us, we must do.

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The future for African energy investment in an era of energy transition

How can oil, gas and renewables projects co-exist in Africa?

This year has already seen bold announcements from supermajors who are setting out their respective roadmaps to become carbon-neutral energy companies by 2050. BP, Shell and most recently Total have all pledged to reach the goal of net-zero emissions. Whilst low or zero-carbon energy may seem incongruous in the context of traditional fossil fuels, increasingly IOCs and large independents are utilising technologies to help significantly reduce carbon emissions. E&P operations, particularly in remote regions of Africa, can harness renewable energy sources to power and develop their operations. 

Falling technology costs have made renewable energy a cost-effective way to generate power in countries all over the world. Despite the tremendous efforts that have been deployed at national and regional levels, 580 million Africans still do not have access to modern sources of electricity. A strategic partnership between the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is working to solve this challenge by unlocking the capital necessary to help Africa realise its full renewable energy and economic potential. 

IRENA’s Scaling Up Renewable Energy Deployment in Africa shows that Africa has the potential to install 310 gigawatts of clean renewable power, or half the continent’s total electricity generation capacity, to meet nearly a quarter of its energy needs by 2030. Working together, IRENA and the UNDP (through its Africa Centre for Sustainable Development) recently co-presented the case for unlocking renewable energy potential in Africa through increasing investments flows. 

IRENA estimates that Africa requires an annual investment of US$ 70 billion in renewable energy projects until 2030 for clean energy transformation to take place. The clean energy access would increase energy security, create green jobs, and support key development outcomes such as improved healthcare and education. Additionally, renewable energy deployment would curb rising carbon emissions and enhance Africa’s resilience to climate change impacts.

IRENA continues to work on ways to support Africa in its energy transition journey, which include the Climate Investment Platform (CIP) – an initiative that is now open for registrations from project developers and partners. CIP is designed to scale up climate action and catalyse the flow of capital to clean energy initiatives. The platform will add significant value to Africa’s efforts to increase the share of renewables in its energy sector, as it serves to facilitate the matchmaking of bankable projects with potential investors, as well as to enable frameworks for investment by promoting multi-stakeholder dialogues to address policy and regulatory challenges.

Like many regions and continents globally, the question of the energy mix is not one of yoking policy to just one or two specific energy sources, which is certainly the case in many African countries. South Africa, for example, still possesses huge reserves of thermal coal which support a large part of the population in terms of employment and electricity generation. 

The attractiveness of numerous offshore E&P assets for oil production is evident from the increase in global investment in East, West and Southern Africa. Meanwhile, natural gas has the potential to unlock economic empowerment in places like Mozambique and Tanzania. Renewable energy can complement and form an important part of the energy matrix, especially given Africa’s abundant resources which include solar, wind, tidal and geothermal potential. 

Future investment into low-carbon energies for Africa has the potential to co-exist with existing upstream E&P projects, which can accelerate renewable energy utilisation along the value chain and significantly reduce those key Scope 3 emissions on which energy companies are now focused. It is vital to remember that the industry is travelling along with an energy transition – not a rapid energy switch – whereby carbon emissions will reduce over time, navigating the limits of infrastructure and access to investment capital along the way. 

The Finance Forum will return to AOW in 2020. Join us as we explore current trends across funding, predict market outlooks and tackle obstacles restricting you from securing capital.

The Future Energy Series: Africa is a brand-new day-long event running alongside Africa Oil Week in 2020. Join us and our soon to be announced energy transition experts as we explore how Africa’s bountiful natural gas reserves will act as a lever to bring cleaner, sustainable and efficient energy.

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Green recovery: wind’s power for SA’s post-Covid-19 economy

May 2020: The South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) is pushing for a green economic recovery plan, which should consider renewable energy as one of the main components of the government economic stimulus package post-Covid-19.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought a severe strain on the economy of South Africa resulting in disruption of capital flows, increased unemployment rates, and growing debt burdens. In his address on 21 April, the President stated that “Central to the economic recovery strategy will be the measures we will embark on to stimulate demand and supply through interventions such as substantial infrastructure build programmes…”. To achieve a sustainable and lasting economic recovery, these actions should focus on long-term impacts, as well as the short-term need to generate growth and jobs.

It is expected that the energy demand will start ramping up as the country eases lockdown conditions in line with published lockdown levels, and additional energy capacity will be required. Therefore, the Government should take measures to stimulate demand by moving decisively to electrify the economy. Renewable energy is well-positioned to play an important role in the country’s economic recovery post-Covid-19 since it is infrastructure investment that the government does not have to put capital investment into.

SAWEA has joined the major wind industry corporates and associations across the world, in support of the Global Wind Energy Council’s (GWEC) drive to secure wind power’s role in the global economic recovery, following the Covid-19 crisis, which lays out key policy actions that must be put into motion in order to realise a sustainable economic recovery.

“Our industry views the first step in this recovery plan is to fast-track the Ministerial Determination concurrence process by NERSA, which should give effect to the IRP 2019 thus enabling the Department of Mineral Resources & Energy to proceed with the plans to procure new generation capacity” says SAWEA CEO, Ntombifuthi Ntuli.

Whilst the wind energy allocation in the 2019 IRP promises to reduce the cost of energy, improve the country’s competitiveness and help deliver the additional power needed to kick-start the economy, the industry is of the view that the procurement of new capacity should be fasttracked in order to deliver energy to the grid by 2022 in line with the IRP 2019 stipulations.  We view wind energy as a key building block for economic recovery as it can deliver new electricity infrastructure with private investments, and help South Africa achieve sustainable economic recovery.

Furthermore, the sector has been a source of substantial capital investments in the South African economy, a total of R80 billion has been invested since 2012. Ramping up installed wind capacity by 1.6 GW per annum as allocated in the IRP 2019, would create additional annual investments of about R40 billion per annum in SA, which will help to deliver jobs, clean and affordable power and energy security needed for a sustainable economic recovery. 

“SAWEA would like to call on the government, intergovernmental bodies, and lending institutions, to put clean energy investments at the centre of their economic recovery and economic stimulus packages by implementing regulations that are fit for purpose, including market designs that provide long term price visibility and streamlined permitting that enables rapid ramp-up of the deployment of renewables,” concluded Ntuli.

This can also be achieved by enabling and promoting end-consumer 100% renewable energy demand in order to allow corporates to ramp up and meet their sustainability objectives; and removal of regulatory barriers where these exist in order to enable private sector to freely purchase renewable energy.

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How to keep Covid-19 at bay

The Coronavirus pandemic is our new reality. Amidst soaring infection rates and overwhelmed public health systems, nations across the globe have resorted to drastic measures to protect their populations. South Africa’s state-imposed lockdown and ever-increasing new infections must serve as an opportunity for us to consider our personal responsibility in the greater public health crisis going forward.

Emma Corder, Managing Director for industrial cleaning product company Industroclean, believes that separating myths from facts and giving South Africans clear and credible information on how to protect themselves and their loved ones is critical in flattening the curve of new infections. 

“For example, washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds is by far the most effective method of keeping the virus at bay[i]”, she says.

“Alcohol rubs may be used when soap and water are not readily at hand but must contain an isopropyl (alcohol) content of at least 70% in order for the alcohol to be able to break the virus proteins apart, in a process called denaturation.”

Corder cautions however that alcohol-based hand-sanitizers should be bought carefully and used mindfully.

“While these products are convenient in the absence of soap and water, they do carry certain risks. For instance, danger of small children in the house ingesting these products.”

It’s been said that regular soap destroys the lipid envelope; the fatty layer that is the virus’s protective shell, and the action of washing and rinsing should dislodge any remaining pathogens. Drying our skin thoroughly after washing also makes it a less habitable environment for any virus.

Since the virus may be able to survive for hours or even days on many common surfaces, proper cleaning of surfaces is paramount. Corder explains that common household cleaners are a perfectly adequate solution for sanitizing surfaces around our homes.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that frequently touched surfaces, such as tables, doorknobs, light switches and other surfaces, be cleaned regularly using soap and water which is the best practice. This routine should already be established in all households. Once these surfaces have been cleaned, they should be disinfected. It is important to read all product labels and follow the instructions, many products recommend keeping surfaces wet for a period of time and making sure you have good ventilation.” 

Diluted household bleach solutions can be used on certain but not all surfaces if it has not passed its expiry date. It’s also important to remember never to mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleaner. And again, some of these products can irritate the lungs, slightly wounding the mucus membranes and leaving us even more vulnerable to coronavirus.

Last week the National Regulatory for Compulsory Specification, who administrate comprehensive safety regulations in the manufacturing or selling of cleaning products, reminded us that all chemical disinfectant product that are on local shelves must comply with the minimum safety requirement and be registered by the NRCS.

When purchasing cleaning products consumers must carefully check the labels to ensure that they are buying good quality, certified products which is of utmost importance when protecting one’s family.

All registered products will have a registration number on their labels, which could be the following:

  • Act29GNR529/XXXXXX/XXX/XXXX
  • Act5GNR529/XXXXXX/XXX/XXXX
  • NRCS/8054/XXXXXX/XXX

Corder says that the temptation to use strong, medical grade disinfectants should be curtailed as these kill both good germs and bad, thereby potentially weakening our immune systems to future bugs. 

However, stronger disinfectants can and should be used in an isolation space occupied by an infected person who is ill or one who is suspected of carrying the virus.

Corder explains that in this case, more rigorous protocols are required and higher concentrations of cleaning products, comparable to those used in a healthcare facility setting, should be used for cleaning of surfaces.  “Surfaces that are touched often, like counters, toilets, computers, phones and tables should be cleaned thoroughly and often”, she says.

Corder also offers these tips for those in isolation:

  • Those in isolation should wash their hands frequently with soap and water and where this is not possible, use an alcohol-based sanitizer of at least 70%[ii].
  • They should avoid contact with other people but if this is unavoidable, they should wear a facemask and maintain a distance of 2 meters from other people[iii].
  • Where possible, stay in a separate room with your own bathroom[iv].
  • Use a tissue when coughing and sneezing and immediately throw the tissue away into a lined bin, following by hand washing[v].
  • Household items like knives, forks, cups and towels should not be shared and should be washed thoroughly with soap and water after use[vi].
  • Laundry should be washed at the hottest possible temperature allowed by the fabric and where possible, should be tumble dried and ironed on a hot setting. Those doing the laundry should do so wearing gloves and a plastic apron[vii].
  • Those responsible for cleaning home-quarantine zones should ideally wear appropriate PPE (Personal protective equipment)[viii].

“This is a time when South Africans can show their care for each other by being aware of their personal responsibility and being mindful of the effect that their actions may have on those who are more vulnerable to contracting the virus,” concludes Corder.

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Recycling NPO achieves success in job creation scheme

In 2018 our newly minted State President, Cyril Ramaphosa sponsored a revolutionary initiative to improve much-needed job creation amongst our youth in South Africa. The programme was called “YES” which stands for Youth Employment Services. Its main thrust is to provide a million youth with first-time work experience in multiple business sectors and skills. With unemployment levels in South Africa in double digits, this initiative has been welcomed by government and business with open arms!

Use – It in collaboration with Nedbank, Wildlands Conservation and Heart Eco took on 29 trainee candidates in 2019. They were able to utilize the Hammersdale Waste Beneficiation Site to host them in developing their woodworking, crafting, landscaping and administration skills for the duration of the programme. This project is called “Ulusha Labadidyeli” which means Youth Inventors and Makers. Incubator rooms were subdivided to provide separate training topics.

The trainees (all locally sourced from the Hammersdale Mpumulanga township wards) underwent 12 months of intensive skills training and are set to exit the programme this March 2020. We will at that time have had a 48% successful placement of these delegates into full-time employment. The “YES” programmed only requires 2,5% placement criteria.

  • Six will be retained on our site in a full-time capacity in Safety, Health, Security, Property and landscaping 
  • Two trainees will open their own business enterprises in their township
  • Six will take up full-time jobs on site with a new tenant processing tailing for metals
  • We are actively looking to place the final 15 candidates within the community.

For March 2020 we will be taking on 43 new trainees for comparable type training. Currently, our biggest challenge remains in creating opportunities for job continuation between all “YES” training institutions and small and medium business enterprises in South Africa. Accreditation and formal recognition of prior learning or skills development resulting from “YES” programmes still need refinement to provide a stronger “pull-through” learning experience and improved job opportunities.

For more information please email info@use-it.co.za, or refer to www.use-it.co.za   

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Energy sector requires strong digital foundation

By Jonathan Duncan, Schneider Electric Anglophone Africa Vice President for IT Division

As the world embraces the benefits of new connected technologies, South Africa needs to invest in digitisation of its electrical network before we can start realising the benefits of having accurate and up-to-date network usage information at our fingertips. Being digitised and connected to intelligent devices on the electrical network is paramount to being able to monitor energy consumption and reduce energy waste.

In addition to the benefits new technology brings to the energy sector, it also brings increased pressure on electricity supply. The exponential growth of “smart technologies” presents a sizable increase to energy demand.

ADDRESSING THE ENERGY GAP, END-TO-END

As the adage goes, we can only manage what we can measure. As South Africa battles at local level with ‘last mile’ power distribution, an end-to-end monitoring solution is crucial if we want to see any return on investments into digitisation.

From a Schneider Electric position, our biggest contribution lies in metering. A range of connected equipment can monitor and meter your power consumption, and valuable information can be gleaned from this.

There is a big drive now to move into; what do we do with this information? This famously termed ‘Big Data’. Once you’ve got all that information coming through, how do we action it and drive a meaningful result on this information? Huge potential here lies in continuously analysing incoming and historical data to predict the next potential failure. For example, in an industrial environment, we need to know where the energy is going and how much energy is going into each application and try to understand what is working most efficiently. Energy – it is finite. Unless we know how to be most efficient – through accurate measuring – we can’t keep demanding more and more energy. We need to be looking at who is operating most efficiently and how we drive the adoption of those best practices across the globe.

THAT’S JUST THE START

Once we start gathering the information from smart devices or sensors, then comes the big payoff; what we do with the information. Feeding data into a machine learning system, for example, could bring huge benefits to energy management through artificial intelligence (AI).

AI can learn quickly and be highly accurate in its forecast, which will be ever-improving. For me, AI is key in telling you different factors in whether we’re going to experience a grid overload. AI is probably the only way to properly manage these contributing factors.

Of course, with all this connectivity comes a serious need to consider cybersecurity. At Schneider Electric we place much emphasis on creating connected devices that are resilient to cyber-attack, a key threat. Every vendor should be spending vast amounts of R&D investment to make sure they are not accessible and hackable. This is especially vital as we start moving towards autonomy. 

CRITICAL INSIGHTS ENABLED

While automation is unfortunately difficult to implement at a municipal level, there is much that can be done by effectively utilising data fed into an aggregated system. Today we build power grids for unanticipated peak demand. Once we have accurate data coming in, we can start understanding what is critical and what can be shed.

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Artist recognised for revitalising forgotten public space

Through an incredible labour of love, The Wilds in Johannesburg has been transformed from a shunned public space into an indigenous wonderland that attracts thousands of visitors annually

When Killarney resident and artist, James Delaney, wanted to take his dog for walks in his neighbourhood, he naturally thought about visiting his nearest park, The Wilds. What he discovered was a 40-acre indigenous garden on the edge of Johannesburg’s inner city that had a bad reputation and no visitors.

Delaney realised that the nearly 100-year old public space had great potential, but that returning it to its former glory would require a huge amount of work. “The park was overrun with untamed growth, dead wood and weeds, and the pathways were buried under earth.”

Not daunted by the sheer immensity of the task, Delaney enlisted the help of Thulani Nkomo and in 2014 the two men started trimming trees and clearing undergrowth and pathways. Three years down the line, they had organised the removal of 40-plus truck-loads of dead wood from the park, but still no-one came.

“I realised we needed to find a way to get people to come to the park. I got some of my drawings made into metal sculptures. This was the catalyst we needed to create interest. People came to the park to see the art and capture Instagram moments. On Mandela Day in 2017, we placed 67 owls the park’s yellowwood forest,” says Delaney.

The trend of incorporating art into the park has continued and today there are 100 of Delaney’s sculptures in the park, including a life-size giraffe, as well as work by other artists.

Now, not only do thousands of people volunteer in the park, there are sometimes so many visitors on weekends that they struggle to find parking. In addition, City Parks provides two teams to help Delaney and Nkomo in their work. Delaney himself continues to raise funds (which are administered by the Joburg Heritage Foundation) to pay several permanent staff members and complete special projects in the park.

And, Delaney’s efforts have been recognised further afield.

Last year, he received an award from the AfriSam-South African Institution of Architects (SAIA) Sustainable Design Award competition. The awards recognise contributions that bring sustainable innovation to urban and rural living environments through an integrated approach to communities, planning, research, architecture, building practice, natural systems and technology.

Notably, the awards advocate for design projects that are responsive to the social complexities, growth requirements and needs of marginalised communities in South Africa and throughout the African diaspora.

AfriSam, says Delaney’s incredible work in The Wilds prompted the award organisers to add an additional category – Sustainable Leadership – to its existing categories of Sustainable

Design, Research in Sustainability, Sustainable Product/Technology and Sustainable Social Programmes this year.

“Sustainable leadership refers to people who guide complex teams in transforming public spaces or completing sustainable projects, whether in urban or rural settings. In essence, the award recognises the people who move our world forward.”

Project entries should demonstrate how they embody sound sustainable practices that bear the hallmarks of great architectural or social design and innovative thinking in the field of sustainability, to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.

Entries for this year’s AfriSam-SAIA Sustainable Design Award competition close at the end of March. For more information, visit www.sustainabledesign.co.za

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