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When vehicles were introduced to the world more than 100 years ago, a good number of them were electric. Electric vehicles use between three and six times less energy than petrol vehicles to do the same work. And they produce no emissions. We need to be mobile and we want to enjoy driving just for fun! There should be place for both… (more)


Book Review: The Six Sigma Way by PS Pand, RP Neuman and RR Cavanagh – introduction. Part 2 of a four-part series. Before you can assess how well you are serving your customers, you need to ask yourself: what are we doing and who are our customers? Too many people think they know the answers to this, but the truth is – they don’t!… (more)

So many people in the lighting industry seem to believe that “minimising impact on the environment” means getting rid of the more tried and trusted lighting sources in favour of the newer “more efficient” light sources… (more)

Widespread commercial use of highly energy efficient lighting such as LEDs is recent. IEC International Standards have been instrumental in helping industry achieve high quality and safety levels for energy efficient lighting solutions, resulting in broad adoption… (more)

For contractors, one of main cost factors in any project is labour. This applies across the board, whether talking about relatively unskilled workers clocking up significant hours or – worse still – the cost of qualified staff being tied up working on cumbersome systems that take a long time to install… (more)

Unlike wind power converters, central solar inverters bear huge potential for technical optimisation. At the moment, photovoltaic systems bear the biggest potential for increasing the efficiency of solar panels as well as of the overall system design… (more)

Some industrial processes demand extreme conditions, and the machinery must be able to operate accurately and consistently under these conditions. If chain elongation occurs, the speed of a conveyor can be controlled electronically to compensate for elongation… (more)

The results of an explosion in a mine or industrial environment can be so dreadful that tools and equipment used in these environments must conform to the strictest Ex standards. The Fluke range of intrinsically safe handheld test tools is designed to meet the needs of technicians working in and around hazardous areas… (more)

When a suitable modular climbing platform could not be found, the solution was to design one. Delta’s senior engineer spent six months planning, designing and fabricating the electronic climbing platform, reputedly the most advanced ever seen in the construction industry… (more)

The specialised lighting adds ambience to the building and aids with the showcasing of artworks. A leading electrical company was tasked with the design and installation of the ABB KNX building automation system, which controls the lighting of the three specially designed floors for the display of various works of art… (more)

Intermediate voltage (1,9 – 3,3 kV ) cable has a reduced lifetime compared with standard LV or MV cables, because of higher operating electrical stress and low-cost design. Low cost intermediate voltage cable was introduced to the South African market to fill a very specialised niche. Typical applications are borehole pumps for farmers, electricity supply for farm workers homes, etc… (more)

The primary function of a cable gland is to anchor a cable to an apparatus mechanically. This prevents tensile loads from being transmitted to the conductor terminations. Modern cable glands generally integrate additional functions. These might, for example, include the provision of earthing continuity or the maintenance of the apparatus IP (ingress protection) integrity… (more)

Electromagnetic location is a method of locating buried pipes, cables and sewers. It has become almost universal. Its main shortcoming is that it will not locate non-metallic lines such as plastic pipes… (more)

Alternative energy, renewable energy, green energy, clean energy, free energy etc. All names for the same thing. All reflecting the idea of a limitless source of energy which only has to be harvested. Off-grid renewable energy systems have proved their ability to provide reliable power at an economic cost over many years of operation. Grid connected systems however present a totally different situation… ( more)

While Eskom’s clients will see an increase of 24% in electricity prices, most municipal clients will incur substantially higher increases in Rand terms, and especially so if a municipality gets increases, in percentage terms, higher than Eskom’s approved increase.  According to the international utility pricing company NUS Consulting, the proposed increases for the average Eskom bulk user will see increases of approximately 8.5c/kWh while the average  municipal bulk user will be approximately 13,5c/kWh (or more), a 60% higher increase in Rand terms than Eskom’s customers… (more)

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, there was a country called Utopia where the word “corruption” was unknown and virtue reigned supreme, unlike in neighbouring Pragmatica. When the time came to build a new power station in Utopia, the state-owned power company Uskom decided to play it by the book and make it a moral beacon in a sea of sleaze an corruption… (more)

When my partner starts talking in “engineer”, I become like one of those nodding dogs that people used to have in the back windows of their cars. My head nods, I give a toothy smile and my eyes glaze over. When ‘reserve margin’ was suggested as a topic for this column, I wondered what the white stripe on a rugby field keeping the reserves behind the playing field had to do with engineering?… (more)

Energy in South Africa has typically been inexpensive and plentiful. However, recent power outages have underscored the country’s growing energy requirements and demonstrated the need to focus attention on alternative energy sources. Globally, countries are looking toward renewable energy as a cleaner alternative. Adding renewable energy to the pan-African energy mix could be one of the answers to its power supply challenge… (more)

Eskom recently published a “Request for Information” with the aim of conducting a study on the availability, sustainability, characteristics, logistics and costs of wood based biomass in and around South Africa. Biomass as a fuel source to generate electricity is not new. The sugar industry has been doing this for some time, and world wide a number of small power stations are wood fired… (more)

Over many years of involvement in the PV industry it has become apparent that there is a great lack of understanding and a great deal of misinformation in the industry, not only amongst consumers but also amongst suppliers… (more)

Solar thermal energy conversion for power generation for both low and high temperature systems is an active area of research aimed mainly at addressing environmental and climate change concerns, but also as a possible complimentary avenue of tackling the current power supply deficits in Southern Africa… (more)

Sugar cane is undoubtedly one of the “good” biofuels, because it is difficult to see how growing sugar cane for bio-alcohol can really threaten food supplies. Maybe somewhat less sugar will be available, but one cannot live on sugar. That is probably why current estimates for future biofuel production in South Africa show most of it as bio-alcohol, coming from sugar cane… (more)

Parsons Brinckerhoff Africa (PB) was contracted by its client in 2009 to perform a power system study as well as a wind integration study for a 25 to 50 MW wind power plant (WPP) on the utility network. The scope of work for the project included an analysis of the wind generation capacity that the client’s network could sustain, the grid strengthening and integration requirements… (more)


The increasing drive for renewable energy source is putting pressure on operators to get the most from their power lines. A year-long site trial proves that a dynamic line rating scheme can raise transmission capacity. Changes in the mix of energy are having a big impact on power systems… (more)

Merely changing a meter achieves nothing unless the new features the technology provides in some way change the ways that people and organisations use the product being metered. Stories are circulating in utility circles of companies that have invested in advanced meter infrastructure without seeing any justifiable benefits… (more)

The Cahora Bassa HVDC scheme in Southern Africa can transmit 1920 MW from Mozambique to South Africa. The DC line is experiencing numerous insulator flashovers. This paper describes an investigation into the possible existence of standing waves on the DC line. The simulation study used the Cigré benchmark model for HVDC studies, adapted to model the Cahora Bassa HVDC scheme… (more)

There are numerous, well documented, incentives for consumers and energy suppliers to reduce electricity consumption. These range from a lack of generation capacity on the one hand, to high energy costs and detrimental environmental impacts on the other. Reducing energy consumption will not only reduce the overall demand on the grid during peak periods but will also reduce the base load generation requirement… (more)

Solar energy is witnessing a truly stunning growth. Today, about 4500 MW of photovoltaic capacity is being installed annually worldwide – a figure that was below 100 MW in 1996 – and this expansion is continuing exponentially. The rapid spread is driven by national incentives: mainly by so-called feed-in tariffs… (more) 

It is not only home owners that install PV systems on their rooftops. Private companies are also making more and more investments in shared systems, which are erected on large-surface roofs, on various control structures, or unused open areas. Because of the large space requirements,these systems are especially threatened by lightning discharges during thunderstorms… (more)

The challenge – improving the automated testing of frequent software releases of Siemens wind turbine control systems as well as testing and verifying the wind turbine control system components in the development phase. The solution – To create a new real-time test system for hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) testing of the embedded control software releases of Siemens wind turbine control systems… (more)

The use of renewable energy sources is one of the key issues when it comes to creating a new basis for worldwide energy supply. Wind power has been in use for over 20 years now, with technical advances in this area leading to improvements in efficiency and reliability. The output of wind power units is steadily increasing (more)

In terms of section 5 of the Spatial Data Infrastructure Act, 2003 (Act No 54 of 2003), Gugile Nkwinti, Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, has appointed the following persons as members of the Committee for Spatial Information for a term of office of three years commencing from 1 March 2010. The inaugural meeting of the committee takes place on 21 June 2010… (more)

The European Investment Bank has an annual lending portfolio of around €75-billion, operating globally in more than 130 countries. As its environmental commitments have increased, so too has the demand for geospatial information. Earth observation from space can provide consistent, accurate and timely information on the state of the global environment that could help the bank to assess the feasibility, monitor the progress and quantify the environmental impact of its investment projects… (more)

With the imminent launch of Gauteng’s intelligent number plate project (iNP), the foremost question on the minds of vehicle owners has to be: is another expensive system really necessary? In truth, once the benefits of the iNP have been analysed, the answer is yes. If that’s the case, what are the benefits and what is iNP anyway?… (more)

African states, along with other countries, have signed the declaration to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. The private sector especially those involved in IT and GIS can help by developing effortless yet sound reporting tools for governments and implementing organisations thereby contributing to the attainment of MDGs… (more)

As BIM adoption has become more of a standard in architecture and
construction, civil engineers have been taking notice and are asking the question: What does BIM mean for me? For civil engineers who regularly work with architects or structural engineers, BIM may already be part of their vocabulary. But for those who spend their days designing roads and highways, BIM represents a whole new world… (more)

An exploratory study into the potential of GIS to contribute to the implementation and measurement of sustainability within third-world Africa. This article is a summary of a dissertation which was conducted from 2006 until 2009. Although the overall research and conclusions were broadly African, a South African case study of the municipal environment constituted the primary research… (more)

In today’s world, countries, provinces and municipalities compete in order to attract and retain firms. Economic development agencies may use GIS to develop information that is essential to investors and entrepreneurs. This article will describe how GIS was used to create the Gauteng Economic Opportunity Atlas. The atlas will be used as a tool for attracting business into Gauteng province… (more)

Terrestrial laser scanning has progressed over the last 10 years from novel technology to accepted surveying technique. While the hardware is becoming widely used in the mining industry, successful application relies on factors beyond the mere ability to rapidly record huge amounts of spatial data… (more)

A precise geoid model is a prerequisite for converting GPS-determined heights to heights referred to in the national height datum. This article describes the computation of a hybrid geoid model for South Africa from a combination of gravity data, harmonic coefficients and GPS/levelling data… (more)

Integration competency centres (ICCs) have arisen from the need to integrate technologies because they develop repeatable and sustainable practices and processes, driving organisations away from one-off projects, the custom coding that prevailed three decades ago, and the custom tools or middleware that proliferated in the ‘90s, among the many reasons.Yet while many see the need, and some have adopted the approach… (more)

The emergence of GIS and the broader geospatial information market over the years has seen industry respond to technological developments, economic ups and downs and societal change in equal measure. Rarely have developments in the GIS industry conflicted with broader trends; instead the GIS industry has consistently responded to wider changes by adapting to them. This trend is most clear in the movement of geospatial data and tools onto the web… (more)

It has been 16 months since the SA Council for Planners (SACPLAN) gazetted their draft rules for their Planning Professions Act. Without any prior consultation these draft rules proposed a highly self-serving schedule of work reservation suited to create a broad exclusive domain for the unhindered operation of all registered planners. The resulting storm of protest and indignation  from the Professional Land Surveyors and other professions… (more)

by Chris Yelland, managing director of EE Publishers
Following the public announcement of Eskom’s interim results for the financial year ending 31 March 2010, EE Publishers managing director Chris Yelland posed a number of questions to Paul O’Flaherty, Eskom’s new finance director, on 9 June 2010. The questions are given below.

Click here for the answers from Paul O’Flaherty.

  1. Is there any specific reason why this year Eskom’s annual financial report was not published and available at the announcement of the annual financial results last week? When will it be available?
  2. With the Eskom financial year-end being 31 March 2010, should the income statement not reflect the financial year ending 31 March 2010, with the balance sheet as on 31 March 2010? In which case, why is the revised Mozal special pricing arrangement, which was only announced two weeks ago and is still subject to regulatory approval, being reported and factored in for the year ending 31 March 2010?
  3. What is the revised pricing arrangement with Mozal? Are they on a published tariff like other “normal” energy intensive customers? What average price per kWh is Mozal now paying, and how does this compare with other energy-intensive South African customers, and with the other special pricing deal customers (Hillside, Bayside and Scorpion Zinc). What justification is there for keeping all this a secret?
  4. About two years ago, Eskom was about to place orders for Nuclear 1 and 2. But the decision was deferred. Then about a year ago, Eskom was saying it needed an imminent decision on Coal 3. But then in late 2009, Eskom indicated that it will not be building Coal 3, Nuclear 1 and Nuclear 2, and these would have to be done by others. When do you think “others” will pick up this ball, and is another capacity crisis looming if this is not done now?
  5. Has the placement of new contracts for the construction of Kusile restarted since this was stopped in December 2008, or is this still awaiting a funding plan e.g. finding a private equity partner for Kusile?
  6. How long is it likely to take to find an equity partner for Kusile and close the deal, or to make another funding plan for Kusile? Six months? A year?
  7. You mentioned eighteen months (minimum) to close the deal on funding for Kusile! Does this mean we could be faced with a further eighteen month delay in the construction of Kusile?
  8. Can you give any details on this alternative or interim funding solution, or is this not open for discussion yet?
  9. How have the current and possible further delays in placing contracts at Kusile impacted on the overall cost and delivery time of Kusile? Have the additional costs due to the delays in Kusile e.g. cost of finance during construction, cost price escalation and exchange rate risks, been factored in to the current price tag yet?
  10. What is the latest revised cost for Kusile and what would be the cancellation costs? I have heard a revised price tag of R175-billion mentioned, with a figure R21-billion for cancellation. Is this correct? Is the cancellation of Kusile a possible least-cost outcome of IRP 2, or is Kusile to be taken as a given? Could Kusile be replaced with say three or four smaller base-load coal-fired stations from IPPs with lower costs, shorter lead times and lower risks for Eskom, the government and the country? I am asking if the cancellation of Kusile is still an option?
  11. Which contractor(s) are overall responsible for the commissioning of Medupi, or is Eskom taking on this risk and liability? Is the Medupi price tag still R124-billion excluding flue-gas desulphurisation? And is the first unit at Medupi still scheduled for April 2012?

Click here for the answers from Paul O’Flaherty.

  • Catch up on the latest snippets from around Africa:  Vodacom in dispute with local Congo-Kinshasa partner; Uganda sets deadline for troubled backbone project; a storm brews over Kenya’s new telecoms rules; Nigeria pumps US$20-million into rural connectivity; Rwandatel seeks alternative to Seacom cable; Nineteen bidders for Mozambique’s  third mobile phone licence; Zantel embarks on expansion drive; and  start-up in US $7,2-million deal with Huawei… (more)

Just when we thought there would be no more load shedding we are now told that is “scheduled maintenance.” During April residents and businesses in the greater Johannesburg area experienced many power interruptions, and have begun to question whether they are being told the truth… (more)

The saying “the early bird catches the worm” does not necessarily hold true for technology. On Digital Media, the company that launched Top TV on 1 May 2010, proved the point that latecomers can benefit from proven technology… (more)

In many African countries news gathering and sport broadcasts have up to now been limited to one or two major cities, depriving viewers of local coverage of news and sporting events. New and smarter technology is fast changing that situation… (more)

We bring you the latest in gadgetry: Legends of Echo – this may not be a gadget you can hold, but it sure will give you mega entertainment;  music your game?- up to 2000 songs on your 8 GB Sansa clip and MP3 player; more MP3/MP4 entertainment – MotorPod MP3 FM modulator accessory for your car… (more)

Oh no – not another information technology disaster! As lawyers on both sides sharpen their pencils, the future of another major South African IT project hangs in the balance…  (more)

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