You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2009.

Google’s announcement of the upcoming Chrome operating system leads to many questions but, thus far, no definitive answers – except that changes are happening in the industry… (more)

The Wireless Access Providers’ Association (WAPA) is a strong promoter of self-regulation in the telecoms industry. The organisation was established in 2006 and is a non-profit industry representative body acting as a collective voice for independent wireless operators in South Africa… (more)

Going to the edge of space is a concept that talks about sending up a balloon or series of balloons to test several aspects of radio communication, one of which is propopagation. The next dream is taking it beyond the edge of space and launching an Earth satellite to circle the globe… (more)

Hans van de Groenendaal  well remembers the day when Telkom tried to take the then Durban Corporation to court over its fibre network. It was called dark fibre because it did not connect into Telkom’s network and in terms of the then Telecommunications Act it was illegal… (more)

All is not well in the world of virus protection. A report published by Commtouch, a company that supplies messaging and web security technology to more than 100 security companies and service providers for integration into their solutions, alluded in their second quarter report to new Trojan variants that had evaded antivirus agents… (more)

  • First antenna installed at Karoo site
  • Fixes to Hubble Space Telescope successful
  • Kepler detects an exoplanet atmosphere
  • Creating a lab in space
  • NASA celebrates Chandra X-ray Observatory’s 10th     anniversary
  • Salt finding hints at ocean within Saturn moon
  • SunbandilaSat launch delayed again … (more)

An interview with Doug Kuni, managing director of the South African Independent Power Producers Association (SAIPPA)

by Chris Yelland, managing director of EE Publishers

In this interview, Chris Yelland, managing director of EE Publishers, questions Doug Kuni, formerly from Eskom Generation, now a private consultant and managing director of the newly formed South African Independent Power Producers Association (SAIPPA), on the issues surrounding Eskom and IPPs in South Africa.

Audio-cast: Listen to the full interview with Doug Kuni (MP3 file)

Read the full interview and get the answers to the questions:

  1. Mr. Kuni, to what extent do you believe that South Africa needs IPPs and industrial co-generation as part of the solution to South Africa’s generation capacity crisis, and what advantages do IPPs bring?
  2. There has been talk of getting IPPs into the generation mix in South Africa for over ten years, but we still see few signs of progress. What is really going on, and what is it that is holding South Africa back?
  3. Do you believe that Eskom can be an honest broker as a generation project specifier, evaluator, adjudicator, power purchaser and competitor of IPPs, or is the conflict of interest a big problem?
  4. To what extent do you believe Eskom is hostile to IPPs and tries to keep them out?
  5. Please can you respond to statements often made to justify Eskom’s new build programme, namely that IPPs had not come to the table because they could not compete with Eskom’s very efficient and superior generation operation, and that this was therefore some kind of market failure?
  6. Please can you respond to statements often made by Eskom that it generates electricity at about half the price offered by IPPs, and that the country should therefore be wary of the IPP option?
  7. Eskom has commissioned some 2000 MW of OCGT (open cycle gas turbine) generation in the Cape. Since the operating costs are very high, has this helped or hindered the situation in South Africa, and should this have been left to IPPs?
  8. With the extremely high cost of operating the OCGTs, and the cost of Eskom’s new build programme spiralling upwards, how do IPPs feel about Eskom’s claims that they (IPPs) come at a high cost compared to Eskom?
  9. Is the current Eskom generation build programme (i.e. the return-to-service of mothballed power stations, OCGTs in the Western Cape, the Medupi and Kusile coal-fired power stations , and the Ingula and Tubatse pumped storage schemes) South Africa’s best and least-cost option for generation capacity to meet the demand forecast over the next 20 years and more?
  10. Is there adequate understanding within government, the DoE, DTI, DPE, Treasury, Regulator and Eskom of the electricity supply industry and its dynamics?
  11. In an environment of severe government and Eskom funding constraints, to what extent can IPPs alleviate the burden being felt by Eskom, the Treasury and the country?
  12. What do you make of the government and Eskom’s funding of the development of the pebble bed modular reactor (PBMR), and should they be involved in this?
  13. Should Eskom involve itself in wind, concentrating solar, photo-voltaic solar, small hydro and other renewable energy projects, or should this be left to IPPs?

… (more)

The winners of the 2009 SANEA energy awards were announced recently. In presenting the awards Brian Statham, the chairman of SANEA, paid tribute to the many men and women who strive daily to ensure that South Africa enjoys a stable and secure energy future… (more)

Several years ago, so the story goes, a shipment of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) landed in Cuba. Little is known about this particular shipment, but the rumours are flying around. Some say the lamps were made in China, and that’s probably true, although no-one can produce any hard evidence. Others say the lamps are grossly sub-standard, and that they contain an inordinate amount of mercury; but the source(s) are unable to vouch for this… (more)

Among the issues with which the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business (PCB) has been concerning itself recently is labour broking, or Temporary Employment Services (TES), to give it its technical name. Readers may be aware of the fact that this practice was outlawed in Namibia not too long ago, a decision of government which was upheld by the High Court… (more)

At a Southern African Development Community (SADC) ministerial meeting held in Namibia in July 2004, ministers responsible for energy in the SADC region agreed to address regulation, consider implementing cost reflective tariffs, and adopt regulatory principles that would enhance these tariffs… (more)

There is a practical reason why many countries are going to find it increasingly difficult to expand their use of wind power. There is a law of diminishing returns involved. Basically, as wind power capacity in national grid increases (as more and more powerful wind farms are connected to a national grid), so do the uncertainties associated with wind, and the percentage of guaranteed power wind can actually replace from traditional generation actually decreases. That is, if wind power is to be pumped into a national grid directly from wind turbines… (more)

It is an incontrovertible fact that ever since that marvellous invention of that genius Faraday and that somewhat strange man Tesla, and that loud Yankee from Menlo Park, electricity has been harnessed for the greater good of man – and dare I say it, womanhood. Economies rise and fall not so much by the rise and fall of empires any longer, but by the price of electricity; nowhere more so than in a country that thrives on mines and heavy industry, smelters and furnaces. It is therefore all the more disturbing – disappointing? – in any case, outrageous, the way the price of electricity in your beloved country has escalated of late… (more)

The vision of cheap energy from a continuously self renewing source has been around since mankind started using machines instead of muscle power to do work. Early devices such as water wheels and windmills attempted to harness the immense energy available from natural sources in the planet. Electricity provided an energy form which could easily be transported, and promised realisation of the vision of harnessing nature’s bounty. We have been reasonably successful in doing so, primarily in the form of hydro electric schemes, and more recently in wind and solar energy systems… (more)

The National Electricity Response Team (NERT) has issued a communication brief is to update key electricity customers and stakeholders on the status of the power conservation programme (PCP) and to recap on its purpose and key objectives. It also summarises the latest decisions and short term plan. It is the first in a series of communication messages that will be distributed to keep key customers and stakeholders informed…(more)

The 2009 electricity pricing saga reached its end when NERSA granted Eskom a 31,3% price increase on the average standard tariff. This includes the 2 c/kWh environmental tax, so the tariff shows a real increase of only 23,37%. The fact that electricity tariffs have been too low to ensure sustainability and security of supply is well established, so why the knee jerk condemnation of the increase?…( more)

An interview with Dr. Ian McRae, former Eskom chief executive and chairman of the NER

by Chris Yelland, managing director of EE Publishers

In this interview, Chris Yelland, managing director of EE Publishers, questions Dr. Ian McRae on the state of the electricity supply industry and the electricity issues facing South Africa.

Dr. McRae was chief executive of Eskom from 1985 to 1994, and was subsequently the first executive chairman and chief executive of the NER (National Electricity Regulator) from 1995 to 1997. It was during Dr. McRae’s time as head of Eskom Generation that the current fleet of large coal-fired power stations, the Koeberg nuclear power station, the hydro-electric power stations of the Orange River, and the Drakensberg pumped water storage scheme, were all built. In 1990, as Eskom chief executive, he also embarked Eskom on one of the world’s largest mass electrification programmes, under the slogan: “Electricity for all”.

Dr. McRae has written a book entitled “The test of leadership – 50 years in the electricity supply industry of Southern Africa”, published by EE Publishers. The first printing of the book was completely sold out, and the book is now in its second edition, available from EE Publishers, South Africa.

Read the full interview and get the answers to the questions:

  1. Dr. McRae, what has prompted you to speak out now on the electricity issues facing South Africa?
  2. What decisions or indecisions by government do you believe have contributed to the current electricity problems in South Africa?
  3. What do you believe is the role and responsibility of the Eskom board of directors in all this?
  4. As the first chief executive and chairman of the National Electricity Regulator in South Africa, do you think the Regulator has alleviated or accentuated the electricity problems facing the country?
  5. To what extent has inadequate planning, for example in the Western Cape, had on the security of supply of the country?
  6. What do you think has been the role of deficient coal procurement practices and coal supply in the problems experienced?
  7. Do you believe that there is a skills crisis in the electricity supply industry, and if so, what has been the impact?
  8. Do you believe that inadequate financial planning by Eskom and the responsible government departments is affecting the electricity supply industry and the country?
  9. So what should be done about it? Please can you give some pointers on what you think the leaders in the electricity supply industry should be doing?

… (more)

China unveiled an epoch-making 1000 kV AC transmission system demonstration project formally during the 2009 international conference on UHV transmission technology, hosted by the State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC), in Beijing during 20 – 22 May 2009. This massive project, albeit still termed a demonstration project, consists of a 640 km long 1000 kV transmission line with two substations and a switching station, with a nominal voltage of 1000 kV and a maximum operating voltage of 1100 kV, and is estimated to have cost RMB5,7-billion (about US$830-million or R6,7-billion). During December 2008 commissioning tests were conducted at the substations and commercial operation started on 6 January 2009…(more)

Audio cast: Listen to Dr. Pat Naidoo on the dream of low-cost renewable energy for Africa (MP3 file)

Audio cast: Listen to Dr. Pat Naidoo on the harsh reality of global resource business and DRC politics (MP3 file)

Westcor CEO Dr. Pat Naidoo

Dr. Pat Naidoo

At an executive business briefing hosted by the South African Institute of Electrical Engineers (SAIEE) on Friday 31 July 2009, Dr. Pat Naidoo, CEO of the Western Power Corridor Company (Westcor), provided a sad update on the dream of a pan-African project to harness the renewable hydro-electric energy resources of Central Africa for the benefit of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the wider African continent … (more)

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