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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...

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Sub Saharan Power Summit - Cape Town - 21st to 23rd October 2015

I'm speaking at the Sub-Sahara Power Summit between 21st and 23rd October 2015. See http://www.ssapower.com/

Title: ‘Social Capital in an African Energy System’ 


About 600 million people in Africa don't have grid electricity and the remaining approximately 500 million people either intermittent and / or expensive electricity and energy.

Politicians and others spend a lot of time telling us that in order to have growth we need infrastructure, that we need "base load" and that we need very big power stations. But finding trained staff for coal and nuclear power stations, for their build, operation and maintenance is proving difficult. What 21st Century techniques can we use to solve this problem?

Three key takeaways:

1. A different way of thinking

2. What existing knowledge can be rapidly utilised and enhanced to grow energy in Africa?

3. People as Infrastructure.


My latest research work is on what I'm calling "A Social Revolution: Staffing the Energy Revolution in Africa". See https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/staffing-roof-top-solar-revolution-south-africa-david-lipschitz

Essentially we have the technology. And it is cheaper than most Africans already spend on electricity, which is more than 50 US cents per kWh for people using generators. Even though many Africans are "poor", in my experience this is because they typically aren't connected to any of the established grids, and because they don't pay tax.

And we have the finance. There is no shortage of international and local companies and investment banks that are interested in (solar) leasing in Africa.

The problem is finding the people to make the 1000's of GW that are needed to power Africa, and get its 600 million people without energy onto grids, and then reliably and relatively inexpensively and quickly supplying the other 400 million people with electricity. At the same time we also need to solve the water crisis and this can also be solved with the kinds of skills we already have in Africa. Africans are incredibly resourceful, but IMHO they feel "out of it" in a "modern" world, but I believe the changes to a Prosumer way of life is changing this.

And so we have a problem convincing people that there is a way to solve this problem, assuming that we have the technology and the finance is available.

Africa's populations are generally undereducated in the kinds of "base-load" technologies that are being sold to them, hence major corruption due to misunderstandings of both the technology and the possibilities. Imagine an Africa with "infinite" energy. It takes decades and millions of Pounds to train a nuclear or coal engineer. It can take six months to train a fully qualified PV or wind turbine or solar water heater installer.

And it can take a decade to build a coal or nuclear or hydro power station. Some of Africa's potential projects have been on the drawing boards for decades.

Roof top PV can be installed and running in under a day. This lends itself to massive and sustainable scaleability.

New web site

Our new best suppliers marketing web site is live:

Monday, September 28, 2015

Base Load Power in a Renewable Energy Rooftop Revolution

"It’s a funny thing, but “base load” has lost its meaning. Base load used to be a requirement for power station builders to build power stations."

Full article on SA Breaking News.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Why no load shedding recently in South Africa?

We aren't having load shedding because tens of thousands of people are installing embedded generation.

Embedded generation means generation at the point of use, or generation that is embedded inside the grid, rather than Eskom power stations which are at the source generation points on the grid.

Embedded generation including:

  • solar-electric photovoltaic (PV) systems
  • wind turbine systems
  • generators: petrol, diesel
  • gas-engines (gas generators)

Even without load shedding, electricity prices are incredibly high in South Africa, and the threat of load shedding looms for at least the next 3 years, according to Eskom, and many more years according to me and the IRP (Integrated Resource Plan).

Friday, September 18, 2015

Dysfunctional Apple Support in South Africa

Apple: I don't mind paying more for Apple equipment, but I expect their service centre to be up to the task. I have a local non-iStore repair centre I usually use, and I will continue to use them for all repairs going forward.


Apple repair: My 2011 model laptop crashed on 9th August; not a simple hard drive crash (I was prepared for that kind of fault). It was a major hardware issue. Actually a GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) fault and Apple has a free repair facility. See https://www.apple.com/support/macbookpro-videoissues/

Monday 10th August was a public holiday, so I took it to the iStore on 12th August. They told me I'd have it back by between 20th and 23rd August. I asked them for a loan computer. They said they'd phone when they had one. They never phoned.

On 18th August, Apple quoted me R10,474 to fix the screen. I didn't accept the quote! I told them to fix the GPU fault and return the computer to me, as my local Apple repair shop told me they could fix the screen for R2,500.

One should note that when I got the GPU fault, there was absolutely nothing wrong with my screen. Two of my Apple friends said to me that they thought that Apple had probably broken the screen!

I got the laptop back on 5th September.

When I got the laptop back, I took it to my normal repair centre in Westlake. They checked the screen cables, and a fuse, and tested the computer for 2 days and could find no fault with the screen!!

I was quoted R10,500 to repair the screen, but when I got the unit back, there was nothing wrong with the screen. I paid my local Apple Repair shop R450 for their time.

We really need proper Apple Service to come back to South Africa. PLEASE.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Staffing the roof-top Solar Revolution in (South) Africa

"Staffing the roof-top solar revolution in (South) Africa"

South Africa and Africa’s educational level and system lends itself to a Renewable Energy powered electrical system. We don’t have the time or resources to build coal or nuclear plants anymore. So what are we waiting for, and why are we wasting time on out of date technology that we cannot support and where local people will not be employed?


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Why Uber is important for South Africa

The photo above is from the Uber web site. I hope they don't mind me using it.

Uber is a serious part of my future plans, if I am to do as our government and local government would have us do, and use public transport. I am not a shareholder, just a thinker, and I want the best for South Africa and its people.

You see, in order to use public transport, I need choice. This means there must be competition, for example the IRT (Integrated Rapid Transit system), buses, trains, taxis, Uber, planes, other transport services, etc.

Transportation is incredibly expensive in South Africa. Worse than this, it is erratic, slow, and cable thefts, vandalism and poor maintenance means that one's staff are often late for work, stressed out, and not in the mood to work, when they get to work.

Trains, taxis, buses, etc, are all already regulated, yet, as can be seen, this legislation is unenforceable and in any case, most of the operators simply ignore it! Worse than this, public transport and minibus taxi services often cease at between 6.30pm and 7.30pm, which means that poor people cannot enjoy nightlife in Cape Town, cannot go to the concerts, and our students cannot work late at university and then get reliable transport home.

When I was at university, I was often there till 11pm and sometimes even till 3am. Doing projects. Using the computer lab. Having fun. And fortunately I had a motorbike, so I could go home, have some breakfast and then be back in time for lectures. South Africa has a dire shortage of students and degreed students, and part of this is because the transport services have forgotten about them.

Enter Uber. The potentially low cost transport option for the masses, without the burden of public transportation hampering the public purse! Uber, especially designed for developing countries.

Uber brings the first mass transport, reliable, self-regulated, and low cost transport service to South Africa.

And its vehicles can carry one passenger, if the passenger doesn't want to share, or many passengers, if they do want to share. Finally, another way of reducing South Africa's high pollution and reducing the need for foreign oil, especially with a depressed currency.

And of-course, if someone wanted to, they could easily compete with Uber!!

Uber's next foray is called UberShare, where one car is used to transport many people, like a bus, but way more versatile. When I was in Israel in 1984, there were Mercedes Limos with 3 rows, called Sheruts. These Limos could transport us students, travelling on a meagre budget around, pretty much from exactly where one was to where one wanted to be. I guess they were the forerunners of our mini-bus taxis, except to say that it felt wonderful to be in a Mercedes Limo, rather than a rattly old minibus, or even in a rattly and draughty bus.

Jeremy Rifkin, in his ground breaking book, "The Zero Marginal Cost Society", discusses Uber as one of the many services that operates almost for "free", where its costs decrease every year rather than go up. We have already seen this in free internet access, free phone calls, free movie tickets. And millennials want access rather than ownership, and the Uber service fits this new paradigm.

Although the government believe that Uber and similar services need to be regulated (by government), these services will in fact be self-regulated by social media. Imagine an Uber user who gets in a car with tomato sauce on the back seat, or a driver who smokes, or a driver, who might have been a former minibus driver, who ignores the road rules? These cars will very quickly be virused, i.e. social media will go viral on both good service and bad service, and good service will win. And at no cost to our government in terms of fines, more expensive to maintain regulations and more courts to get people to obey the law. As it is, many people simply ignore their fines and if they are summonsed, even ignore the summonses. Our jails are full and overflowing.

Self-regulation is key to our future. Millennials and social media will see to it!

I would very much like to give up my car, but I cannot because the existing services are too far away or are too expensive. What I would like to do is be able to call Uber and ask them to take me to my local IRT station. And when I get back home at 8pm after a long day, I'd like an Uber driver to meet me at my local IRT station and bring me home. Or I'd simply like to be able to use Uber for the trip, if I am not going on an IRT route.

Our local taxis are way too expensive for this and they don't like doing short routes. And they have regulated themselves into not being able to operate on "any" route, but must stick to their agreed routes, pretty much like the bus system. The system works like in many systems in spokes from the Centre, but if I want to go from "Zone 6" to "Zone 6" in another part of town, I can't go there directly by public transport. I have to go via Zone 1.

Hey App Writers: how about a "lift-club app?"

Or I'd like to walk up the road to a major thoroughfare like Koeberg Road, and simply get an Uber "sherut." I can't rely on minibus taxis to drive properly or to maintain their vehicles, and I can't rely on "regulations" because of no enforcement. And even if I was on a minibus taxi, I might find myself in the middle of a war zone, as two taxi associations fight it out with guns and knives for turf, as has happened in Westlake, Cape Town, causing me to take 2 hours for a half hour journey. They are doing themselves out of jobs in their rush to be "first."

Competition is incredibly important in an environment where one wants to give up one's car.

I need the IRT. I need the railways. I need the taxi services. I need services like Uber. I don't want to take the mini bus taxis because they typically drive badly and ignore the rules of the road. If Uber, and other similar services, usurp them, and they usurp an unreliable and expensive bus and train service, then these service providers only have themselves to blame!

SAEE Convention News

David Lipschitz speaking at The Southern African Energy Efficiency Convention in November 2015

Elon Musk's Top 10 Rules For Success

Monday, September 7, 2015

Activating the solar revolution in South Africa

Article that appeared in SA Breaking news this morning: titled: 

"Dear Investor: Put your money in Solar Leasing to build new power in SA"

Energy Analyst David Lipschitz writes a letter to an international financial institution on ideas for projects in South Africa:

Dear Investor

Thank you very much for your email and for your generous offer of mutual cooperation.

I am particularly interested in getting Solar / Energy Leasing For Small Scale Projects going in South Africa. Up to now, investors haven’t been particularly interested in Solar Leasing because of government rules, but thousands and perhaps tens of thousands of private people, companies and organisations are installing battery based renewable energy systems, or renewable energy systems which do not feed the national grid, and this is legal, up to 1 MW. Hundreds more want to install, but don’t want to have the finance in their bank accounts or in their homeowner bonds or on their balance sheets. It looks like a lot of money to pay R100 000 ($ 7200) for a homeowner or R10 million ($ 720 000) for a business owner, even if the project is cash flow positive from month one and/ or even if the investment means that load shedding (administered power failures) won’t affect the home or business owner.

One should note that the ANC government in their Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2010 Update 2013 said that electricity users might install renewable energy and embedded generation with or without the consent of government and with or without government incentives. This is happening, mainly because of the three government “incentives” of overinflated electricity prices, load shedding, and lack of promised electricity supply, forcing electricity users to find alternatives.

Of course our target market would be anyone with a roof and with an existing electrical supply. The wires are already in place. And no Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) or big monetary tendering outlay are required.

It is also good for South Africa, as in my opinion, we should have 426 GW of electricity, and we have 33 GW. Eskom’s own projections show that we should have 50 GW by now, and other commentators are saying we should have between 50 and 100 GW by now.

Whatever the total is, it should be substantially more than it is now, and within the next 20 years, almost all of Eskom’s existing power stations will reach end of life, which implies a massive build out and requirement for energy in South Africa and Southern Africa. At least 100 GW of new build will be required in the next 20 years. Private people and capital can provide this build out at a third of Eskom’s capital cost; and it will be completed on time and to budget and to the desired quality.

We are also suffering from droughts, and it makes sense to use spare capacity in a renewable energy system (and even in a fossil fuel system) firstly for pumped storage, secondly for charging batteries, thirdly for making hydrogen, which can be converted to methane and easily stored and used in gas-engines (generators which use gas as the fuel source), and then for desalination. These energy storage options and desalination are essentially free in a Renewable Energy system, besides the capital and OMI (operations, maintenance and insurance) cost.

Furthermore there are private generators of energy (called Independent Power Producers – IPPs) in South Africa, who have built power stations, and who are being paid for electricity, but who aren’t physically delivering that electricity, because Eskom hasn’t built the Transmission and Distribution (T&D) network yet. The other problem with IPPs is that they are simply “off-balance sheet financing” for Eskom, where Eskom is still committed to payments for 20 years, just as if they had borrowed the money and built the power stations themselves.

Embedded Generation already has all the T&D networks in place. And it reduces the maintenance requirement on the grid. Our politicians don’t like it though as they believe that it will reduce their income, but imagine a grid with at least three times as much electricity as now, and where all that electricity flows via a nationally owned electricity grid. The carriers of the electricity (government) would make substantially more money than they make now, but they don’t listen to me, and perhaps they will listen to you or us?

I realise that you probably don’t want to invest in hundreds or perhaps thousands of small projects, but what of funding a New Specialist Local Finance House or New Bank, which specialises in Solar Leasing?

I believe that you could achieve substantially more than your desired 10% ROI (Return on Investment) for the project, or you could use the surplus to fund projects in underprivileged areas.

I look forward to your reply and to continuing our discussions.

– David Lipschitz FSAAEA, computer scientist, mentor and energy analyst with a Bachelor of Science Honours and an MBA, has run a Software Development business since 1994 and an Energy business since 2008. David motivates people to change the way they think about their environment and shows people that it is possible to live a sustainable lifestyle with minimal impact on the earth. Keynote, conference and workshop topics include energy efficiency, load shedding, and producing electricity.

See http://www.sabreakingnews.co.za/2015/09/07/dear-investor-put-your-money-in-small-scale-projects/

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Medupi: More is less?

Article that appeared on SA Breaking News on 1st September 2015.

“The USA uses three times as much electricity per capita as South Africans, so South Africa should be at 402 GW, but we are at 32 GW. Even if I’m over by 100%, South Africa should have 200 GW by today. So where is this other electricity?”

The roof-top solar revolution

Article that appeared on SA Breaking News on August 26th 2015.

David Lipschitz's story.

“Whilst the South African government created and then killed Feed In Tariffs, they created a new life and business environment for me and many others, and for this I am grateful, as I pursue my dream of making the world a little bit of a better place each and every day I am here.”

Nuclear questions South Africans should ask their government

Article that appeared in SA Breaking News on August 21st.

The South African government wants nuclear power. They won’t be here to see it implemented, so is it fair?