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Genesis 1, 28 says that we should "go forth and multiply, and replenish the earth." Not all Bibles have this "replenish the e...

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Grid tied PV cheaper than municipal electricity?

My article that appears on page 16 of the November Energize Magazine.

Under certain conditions grid tie PV with reverse feed is equal to or cheaper than City of Cape Town electricity, three years ahead of schedule! Reverse feed is still "not legal" according to the City of Cape Town. How can we make it legal? The reason for this amazing state of affairs is because the price of City of Cape Town electricity for homeowners has doubled, whilst the cost of grid tied PV has halved.

A 1200 kWh house needs 8 kW to take it off the grid, but with energy efficiency, one can reduce this to 3 kW. This brings the renewable energy price down below R1,60 per kWh. In a year's time if the City of Cape Town increases prices by 25% to R1,60 per kWh and assuming PV doesn't reduce, we are at parity including borrowing from one's bond at 10% per annum. This price is R1,60 per kWh including VAT!! If PV reduces to R20 per watt as we are expecting, then the PV price per kWh will be less than the City of Cape Town price per kWh.

A grid tie system is one where all the output from the photovoltaic (PV) panels, which convert sunlight into electricity, is fed via grid tie inverters into the grid. This is called "reverse feed." A private homeowner in Cape Town using 1200 kWh per month pays R1,28 per kWh including VAT for a total of R1536 per month. If one can sell excess electricity at the same rate of R1,28 per kWh, this is called "Net metering." In a grid tie with net metering scenario, the grid is equivalent to a battery. In five average sun hours the house can make enough electricity for the day. When the sun is down the grid supplies the electricity.

If a house uses 1200 kWh per month, then per day this is 39,5 kWh. Divide 1200 kWh by five for average sun hours per day and we get to 8 kW. If we are in Upington, we can divide by 8,2 and get a 5 kW system. In London, England, the average sun hours is 2,4 which means that an 8 kW system produces 42% of an 8 kW PV system in South Africa.

Germany installs half of the world's PV panels. If they have to install twice as many panels as we need to for the same kWh production and they have been doing this for 20 years, then what is our problem? For the purposes of this discussion, I'm also assuming that we will need to install the full 8 kW whereas in practice, one could reduce electricity demand by as much as 70%, with energy efficiency meaning that only 3 kW of PV might be required. This could reduce the R320 000 system to R180 000. In many situations there might only be enough space for between 2 and 4 kW. The installation will reduce the homeowner's electricity bill whilst at the same time reducing demand on the grid. The economies of scale that selling the PV system at R23 or even R30 per watt would need a minimum order of 60 kW which is 12 x 5 kW houses or 8 x 8 kW houses. The reward for someone being prepared to be part of a group is a much better costing.

The next area to consider is interest rates and repayment times. Considering that the equipment will last for at least 20 years with only the inverter needing replacement in 12 to 15 years, we can borrow money over 20 years. An 8 kW system at R23 per watt is R161 000. Borrowing R161 000 at 7% over 20 years is R1278 per month. At R25 per watt we get to R1583 per month which is almost exactly the same as what the person is paying for their electricity.

So if my numbers are right, and if we can install for R25 per watt, and if we can use capital at 7% over 20 years, then we are already at "grid parity" for homeowners in the City of Cape Town. At 10%, and at R25 per watt, the monthly cost is R1970 for R200 000. In one year, R1536 becomes R1920, so in one year, we are at parity for homeowners who can take money out of their bonds to pay for their own electricity generation.

There are numerous countries which allow reverse feed, some with net metering and some with feed-in tariffs. Considering that our electricity in South Africa is so expensive, we don't need feed-in tariffs for homeowners. But we do need our government to allow people to reverse feed the grid and to take full advantage of the total electricity that their PV panels produces. The problem with a battery only solution or a solution which doesn't allow reverse feed is that the system might only be 30% efficient, thus pushing the cost of the system up per kWh.

Eskom say they can't rely on the grid tie inverter disconnecting from the grid if the grid is shut down and that an electrician working on the power lines might get electrocuted. This problem was resolved in 1999 with two international standards that all good grid tie inverters adhere to. So what are we waiting for? Ke Nako. The time is right for homeowners to take responsibility for the own electricity provision, especially that they can now make their own electricity cheaper than the municipality can provide it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Job Creation in South Africa

David Lipschitz reply to "More formal jobs in Q3" on Engineering News.

The South African population is growing at 1% per annum, ie 500,000 new people every year. South Africa needs 42,000 new jobs per month just to keep up with population growth. 59,000 jobs in a quarter is 20,000 per month. Not enough. Also a lot of these jobs are government employment projects which are not sustainable. At some point the private sector cannot support an overextended government and the economy will crash. It's time for government to act on the incentives they have been proposing for the fastest growing sectors of the worldwide economy, namely IT (especially Smart Phones) and Renewable Energy (RE). Anything else will either create a bloated government or an economy in downward spiral. I should note however, that South Africa is a resource rich country, but it doesn't have enough electricity to extract and beneficiate these materials. The main restriction therefore on real growth in South Africa is the lack of electricity supply. An RE industry incentive, plus deregulation, plus enacting the "embedded energy" legislation would ease this burden and instead of the electricity industry losing 1000 people per quarter it could add 5,000 per month.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Renewable Energy News on 12th December 2011

Some interesting news today:

  • Climate Talks End with Late Deal (COP17)
  • 400 Million Euro Capital Fund and project in the Waterberg Region, North of Joburg
  • Boeing Installs 2.6 MW Unisolar System on Boeing's Dreamliner Plant in South Carolina, USA
  • IKEA is adding 10.7 MW to the roofs of its buildings which will make a total of 26.8 MW. Ikea owns its own RE systems.
  • Mage Solar USA CEO, Joe Thomas, receives award from Georgia Solar Energy Association.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The South African Board of Directors (Government Cabinet) Party at the expense of their employees (taxpayers)

The Cape Times article on 23rd November about the size of government jets refers.

The difference between a country like South Africa and China is that China pays cash for its jets, whereas South Africa borrows the money.  Or actually government ministers borrow the money and expect their tax payers to pay the bill!

According to the South African Revenue Services Report, Chapter 6, South African Government Net Debt is expected to rise from R478.4 billion in 2006/7 to R1.3 trillion in 2012/13 whilst the South African cabinet continues to approve the borrowing of 6% of its expenses year after year.  Debt service costs are expected to increase to R104 billion per annum, but this is interest only and who is receiving these interest payments?  And how will the capital be repaid?

What I'd like to know is: Are South African government ministers signing personal surety for this debt?  Or who really owes the money?

A business which borrows this amount of money to sustain itself should not be allowed luxuries such as private jets, should only be allowed to fly economy class, should use video conferencing where-ever possible, should not be allowed to buy new cars with a value more than R150,000 and should not be allowed to buy new cars more than once every 10 years or 200,000 km which ever happens first, should have their holidays curtailed and salaries cut.

Any government expenditure that is for the government's own benefit and not for the people's benefit should be subject to a referendum.  And citizens should be allowed a say in where they get their electricity, water, food, transport and other major capital expenditure items from.  The South African cabinet is notoriously bad at budgetting for large capital projects often overspending billions on construction projects and costing the tax payer dearly, not only in terms of increased taxation, but in the inability of business to perform because of the late delivery of projects.  It's time for the government's party to end and for them to start performing in their jobs.  Once their Debts are paid, they can buy new cars and jets.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Powering Africa What If Questions for the South African Government

What would the cost of Coal, Hydro, Nuclear, energy be if all subsidies were removed? Would Nuclear be viable, considering that governments underwrite nuclear accidents?

What if the 2% electricity levy was used for Renewable Energy (RE) rebates?  As far as I know there is already over R15 billion in this fund. R5 billion per year being collected. What if R1 billion per annum was awarded to Universities for Renewable Energy research? The government spent R1 billion per annum on the Nuclear Energy Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) for 10 years!

What if private people could make investments before VAT and before tax, in a similar way to companies? What would this cost the fiscus? How many jobs would be created?

What if climate and carbon taxes were used to support RE investments, especially those that supply energy at peak time?

What if everyone was given the opportunity for Time of Use (TOU) tariffs without the service fee? Assuming that people pay to install their own meters.

What if "reverse feed" was legal?

What if Net Metering was introduced with sell back at 30% less than buy at off peak times and sell back is 100% more than buy at peak times, thus incentivising people to create systems that allow them to sell at peak times? At the moment the household tariff for someone using 1,200 kwh per month is R1.29 per kwh incl VAT. This makes R1,548 per month. Sell Back during off peak time could be 90.3c per kwh. Sell Back at peak time could be R2.58. Sound like a lot? Far fetched? Eskom currently spends somewhere between R4.00 and R45.00 per kwh at peak time for energy depending on who you speak to. I calculated that the Ankerlig power station costs R11 per kwh to run using 25,000 litres of diesel per minute to make 9,450 kw or 9.45 MW.

What if Retail Wheeling was introduced? e.g. people with large roof tops selling into the grid to buyers who want to buy green energy? Solar Farms is another model that would benefit from Retail Wheeling.

What if the National Grid was given to an NGO (SESSA?) to run?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Local Solar Water Heater Companies going out of business

The problem is that the South African government (Eskom, DOE, etc) keep introducing new tactics in their long term Energy strategy formulated in 2003. My own company invested over R2m in the Feed In Tariff process which isn't happening. We don't actually need a FIT in South Africa because electricity prices are going up so fast, but what we do need is Reverse Feed to be legalised and we need Net Metering to be introduced. The City of Cape Town had Net Metering in their draft tariffs, but not in their final tariffs for this year. So as the government vacillates constantly, it is telling investors it doesn't want us, and is sending the wrong signals. How to fix this?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Dependence to Interdependence

Hard Drive Delays (a message I just received from a supplier):

"Floods in Thailand has shut down thousand of factories, flooded hundreds of thousands of homes and put more than half a million employees out of work. The impact of the flooding in Thailand will result in shortages that may well loom into 2012."

When we save money by depending on other parts of the world for our well being, how much does it cost us when the shit hits the fan?

Isn't it time we took responsibility for our own electricity, water, sewerage, food, etc?  We don't each need to do it all.  We can do it easily with interdependence.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Deception, war, ambiguity, monopoly, government, answers.

"To carry out a timely response to warning ... two conditions must be met: we must not only receive warning, but also take the decision to respond. The first task has long been recognised; it calls for strong intelligence capabilities. It is the second task that has been neglected. We cannot expect that the enemy, if he plans to attack, will furnish warning that is unambiguous. Military history reminds us that we ought to expect a massive and skillful effort at deception." Captain W Weinberger, US Secretary of Defence, addressing Congress, 1982.

This is how planet earth and mother nature are at the moment. Loads of warnings, shots across the bow, earthquakes destroying nuclear reactors, fracking gasses entering drinking water, etc. We are getting the warnings, but we are ignoring them. By we, I mean governments.

And all the solutions are at hand, but they take money away from monopolies (governments) and put the money in the hands of local communities.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Crash of September 2011

Who needs to be bailed out anyway?

The usual rhetoric on the radio from the managing director of the EU Central Bank. "Banks balance sheets are weak and they need to be bailed out so that they can lend to business which keeps the economy going." The only true bit here is that business keeps the economy going.

The USA, with its QE1 and QE2 bailout programs has pumped TRILLIONS ($1.7 per annum) into banks over the past 3 years. Most of that money went into the stock market pushing up market prices. Now the market crashes because there is no QE3 which means the US$ increases in value and becomes worth something again.

So now the banks have weak balance sheets again because their stock market investments have just crashed.

If the USA and EUCB really want to help, they should lend the money that they want to give to banks directly to the people who create the jobs and make the world a better place - sustainably.

Friday, August 26, 2011

38 Days till the end of the world?

This letter appeared in the Cape Times at the end of July 2011.

People continuously ask "when is the world going to end?". I now have the definitive answer.

South Africa has on average 38 days of above ground coal stocks at any time. A coal strike puts this in perspective.

At any time, South Africans have about 38 days till the world as we know it ends!

If there is coal disruption for any reason, most of our power stations will stop producing electricity.

If we have no electricity, we have no water as water is pumped using electricity.

If we have no electricity, we have no transport as petrol and diesel are pumped using electricity.

If we have no electricity, we have no food as food is transported using petrol and diesel and refrigerated using electricity.

If we have no electricity, we have no money as our ATM's and banks run using electricity.

If we have no electricity, we will have no jobs and no livelihood.

If we have no electricity, then our backup diesel generators will quickly run out of diesel, perhaps giving us a few days more than 38 days.

If we have no electricity, then 60% of Cape Town City's income is gone. Why put so many of your income eggs in one basket?

Isn't it about time that we are allowed to take responsibility for our own electricity provision, after all there will be nothing without it?

Investments in energy efficiency renewable energy will seem cheap in comparison to having no world at all.

Grid tie hits parity (same price) with City of Cape Town electricity costs

Much more detail here.


Grid Tie Photovoltaic systems have become the same price as electricity prices in the City of Cape Town for homeowners, if one excludes VAT. Email david at mypowerstation.biz for proof. Electricity for a house which uses 1200KWH per month costs R1.13 per kwh excluding VAT. A medium size Photovoltaic (PV) system costs R1.13 per kwh if borrowing costs are 7% and including Operation and Maintenance costs. If a large cash investor who is earning 7% interest takes money out of her bank account and invests it, she would want to earn a return of 7% or more. She can finally do this in South Africa, 3 years before the Renewable Energy Industry expected, mainly because the City of Cape Town has increased electricity prices so much and because the cost of installing Grid Tie PV systems has halved in the past 3 years.

All we need now is for the Business and the Citizens of Cape Town to convince the City to allow Grid Tie Systems that Reverse Feed the Grid and Net Metering to allow one to buy and sell electricity at the same price. None of this needs research or inventing. It is already happening all over the world, but not in South Africa.

Let's work together to make this City "a City that works for all."

Toll Roads a Blessing In Disguise

As government including cities and municipalities gets bigger and bigger and fatter and fatter, it needs more money. To satisfy its insatiable appetite for money, it increases rates, taxes, water charges, electricity charges, and as it adds new taxes like carbon taxes, fuel surcharges, levies on flights, levies on electricity, toll roads, etc. And all these at much higher than inflation, eg inflation at 5%, electricity increases at 25%, supposedly to pay for new power stations, but actually to pay bigger salaries and bonuses to staff.

As workers and businesses have less and less of the money they earn they will seek alternatives like working from home.

All "clerical" people like accountants, lawyers, software developers, call centre staff, etc, i.e. everyone except plumbers, electricians, doctors, maintenance people and others who have to go on site to fix or repair things or people, can work from home or from local office centres to which people can walk.

This will have a massive impact on the IT, TV and Communications industries which will have a dramatic increase in revenues. At the same time as this, car companies, road repair companies, oil companies, city services, and some CBD building owners, will see a decline in revenues and will eventually become irrelevant.

This is as it should be and is the only way that we can recover from this recession which is being caused by massive structural change and uncontrolled government and central bank borrowing. Only business and private people can combat this. The age of government control is almost over. Governments will again serve their people. The balance will be righted.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Eskom says protracted coal strike could risk power supply

See an Engineering News Report.

All the more reason to allow deregulation in the electricity sector so that customers can provide their own electricity using Net Metering and Grid Tie Inverters. Incentives could also be put in place to move home owners from peak to off peak time where homeowners could use the incentives to install battery systems to completely remove themselves from the grid at these times.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Net Metering: selling at the same price you pay

It is now more apparent to me than ever before that South Africans must push for Net Metering as the answer to our energy provision problems. Waiting for the first FITs to appear in 2016 is way to long!

See Engineering News Article.

For more on Net Metering see Engineering News Article.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sealed Battery?

Do you have a sealed battery which is not under guarantee anymore?

Would you like us to check it and lengthen its life?

Email battery@mypowerstation.biz.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Too much centralisation

Engineering News Reports:

"South Africa's electricity distribution sector urgently requires a centrally-funded asset recovery plan to deal with a serious maintenance and investment backlog that continues to grow yearly, an industry veteran appealed on Thursday.

"Willie de Beer, the former COO of the now defunct EDI Holdings, said the maintenance and refurbishment backlog had increased to R27,4-billion by 2008, owing to ongoing restructuring uncertainties, under-investment and a dearth of skills."

David Lipschitz's comment:

Centralisation is not the answer. It is the problem. A decentralised system where homeowners and small business are allowed to use Net Metering and Grid Tie to make and conserve energy is part of the answer. Further incentives can be given so that small RE providers (IPPs) put big battery banks in so that they aren't dependent on the grid during power failures and can be warned to disconnect from the grid and use their batteries in the event of an impending power failure (load shedding).

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Impacting Goverment and Saving Money

Suppose that everyone bought a geyser timer and suppose that everyone set these to work outside peak hours.

Users would send an immediate signal to Eskom that this peak energy is not required thus saving several new power stations.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Governments Scared of Renewable Energy

Why are governments of the world scared? Because doing RE means decentralisation. It means a perceived loss of control. It means a perceived loss of tax revenue (even though more people will be employed and far fewer on the dole queue). Employment is not the priority of governments! Dependence is. If you are out of work, you are dependent on the government. And so unemployed people vote for them because it gives them security!!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Treason, Recession, Freedom, Energy, Employment, Health

We just heard that the UK is entering a "double dip recession." The recession that most of the Western World is in is not going to stop. It cannot end while our focus is on the tertiary services sector, whilst our secondary productive sector's resources are outsourced to the cheapest bidder, partly because of minimum wages, and partly because our capitalist leaders and government think they can make more money and profits by this outsourcing. It is narrow minded, myopic thinking and it is treason!

Part of our productive resources are our power stations. South Africa will spend about R2 trillion over the next 20 years on new power stations. Most of this money will leave our country; it will create relatively few permanent jobs; it will ruin our environment; our balance of payments will continue to skyrocket; and it won't help the recession to end; because we will be beholden to our major creditors, China and Germany. China is growing at 10% whilst the rest of the world fiddles the books to show growth, but if the trend shows that unemployment is increasing, how can this be called growth?

There is an alternative. It is called Renewable Energy. South Africa is uniquely placed in Africa, which will be the world's biggest market in 20 years time, to take advantage of the amazing growth that will take place here. We have the knowledge, resources and capital. There are even foreign companies who are trying to build factories here, but the government has been saying no for years.

Please note that this letter is not an attack on China. It just shows what a nation can achieve if they all work together to make themselves wealthier and healthier. Over a decade of 10%+ growth. The fastest growing renewable energy industry in the world. The world's second biggest economy. The world's wealthiest nation. Isn't it time for South Africa to make its true mark on the world stage?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Prepaid Meters - Can you "reverse feed", ie feed into the grid?

As a result of an article in the Ghana News, I thought I should write a response which is also applicable in South Africa.

Buying prepaid meters might be short sighted as once the people of Ghana decide to install electrical renewable energy, they may find that their meters go forwards (instead of backwards) when they are reverse feeding (ie supplying) the grid with electricity. The ECG should check if their prepaid meters allow tamper proof bidirectional electricity and that they measure both consumption and production. In South Africa, almost all people with prepaid meters are prevented from supplying the grid with electricity and in this writer's opinion, this is short sighted.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Increase your wealth - reduce your cost of living - be environmentally friendly

Dear all

After 3 years of attempting to show people that climate change is a reality, I have adopted the term, Environmental Destruction.

There is absolutely no doubt that we are destroying the very systems that support human life on earth. This no matter whether we use terms like Global Warming, Global Weirding or Climate Change.

Yet we forget that there are alternatives that are cheaper, more planet friendly and easy (!) to implement.

We must always remember that we have been lent the earth by our children, not given it by our parents. We need to safeguard this earth for our children.

When I tell people I can help them reduce their carbon footprint by 10% per annum, they don't believe me. We can actually dramatically reduce our cost of living and increase our wealth if us consumers decide to work together to make our world a better place. We think we can't do anything, but that is because our politicians and big business have told us that we need to be separate to be free. But they collude and work together and why shouldn't we?

There is no further time to waste.

If 100 people in a particular area need solar water heaters or energy efficient fridges or need to do grocery shopping and they do it together, they will automatically get better service and better prices. Why do we think we have to do things alone to remain free?

Let's avoid further environmental destruction.

More at MyPowerStation.biz.