Keeping the lights on ~The Southern Cape Corridor

No doubt this concept of The Southern Cape Corridor (S.C.C.) I am writing about is both progressive and worthwhile, however, its feasibility and viability are still to be tested.  

At times, the challenges facing even the concept, seem overwhelming and insurmountable, but hope springs eternal and only we can ensure that the rewards do in fact flow.  Of one issue I am certain, unless trades people with real world business nous and experience drive this project, it will be hamstrung, perhaps doomed from the start.

(Aside :  What ever happened to the Destiny Africa Ecosphere unveiled by Premier Zille in November 2009, promising 50,000 new jobs and an investment of ZAR28bn?

In previous notes I identified five strategic opportunities on and around which the S.C.C. could be developed.  These are:

  1. Energy incl hydro, solar, bio and wind, and supporting industries,
  2. Logistics – all modes plus warehousing,
  3. Timber incl value adding enterprises,
  4. Agriculture incl processing, canning and other value adding opportunities, and
  5. Engineering, Industry and Construction Opportunity incl value chain enterprises.

Timber and Agriculture are the historical, economic foundations of the Southern Cape, and here we will need to better brand and market, innovate, expand and improve our use of technology to compete.  Energy, Logistics and Engineering will underpin population growth and everything that goes along with that, while also being the three critical inputs required for the success of our S.C.C.  This note looks at the primary opportunity of Energy, for as South Africans know all too well, without energy nothing much happens !

 Two recent headlines to begin with

Matchbox Calculation :  At maximum theoretical capacity, Eskom can produce around 45GW of power.  There are 56.6 million souls in South Africa.  We each have access to a maximum of 795 watts of power at any given moment.  In reality, Eskom rarely is able to exceed 35GW = 620 watts each.  The population of the Southern Cape is roughly 300 000, and is expected to grow to 500 000 over the next ten years.  We will need an extra 160MW of power in the Southern Cape by 2025 – that’s the generation capacity of one standard unit of a current Eskom Power Station.  We either need to start raising capital for, and building this capacity NOW, or begin preparing for power outages that will make load-shedding seem like the ‘good times’.

There is no natural law (or supernatural one for that matter) declaring that a situation will or must improve !  Sometimes, even for a little while, things can stay the same, and most times they definitely get worse.  Of course, as the cycle turns, the situation most often improves.  Sometimes these interludes of the ‘bad times’ can last many centuries, just think of the Dark Ages of the 6th to 14th centuries – that’s 800 years of ‘bad times’.  Then again the ‘bad times’ can quickly be covered up like the financial crisis of 2007-08.  The point I am making is that there is no reason why we could not return to fires, candles, kerosene lamps, windmills and horse-power as our primary sources of energy.  Many hundreds of millions of humans in the southern hemisphere, Indian sub-continent, eastern Europe and Asia are to this day reliant on these very sources of energy.  How many readers would choose or prefer that state of existence ?  All that stands between us and a New Dark Ages is inertia – if we all just do nothing, the darkness will close in around us soon enough.

Wind-farms, wave-farms, steam-farms, gas-farms, water-wheels – we might need to hook up every hamster wheel in the Southern Cape and breed a strain of super, electricity producing rodents … Hamster-power from the Garden Route Hamster Farms.  On a more serious note, how could we better harness the currently wasted outputs from both the Timber and Agri-processing industries for the production of bio-fuels ?  In areas of higher rainfall, why could gutters and down-pipes not be fitted with plastic rotor blades, which would spin as the rainwater passed over them ?  Have we paid enough attention to recycling in this country ?  Our landfill sites bear testimony to the fact that we have NOT.  Each kilogram of glass, plastic, metal, paper, foam, wood, fabric etc, contains many hundreds of joules of energy locked inside their molecules.  In our current, energy-obsessed lifestyles, there will be no easy solutions to our energy demands.  Nuclear energy might seem like a quickfix, however these reactors are very costly to build, run and maintain.  Further, the risks associated with nuclear power at every stage of production are not insignificant.  We need to change our mindsets from a consumption mode to a creative, production mode, for only then will truly brilliant ideas be birthed. 

I look forward to your comments.

pj momsen

082 330 7184

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