Connect with us

Technology

Money In The Wind

The South African government has presented the challenge for industry to find cost-effective renewable power sources. The answer may just be blowing in the wind.

Published

on

Silas Zimu, one of the key players in South Africa’s fast-expanding renewable energy sector, says the seminal climate change documentary by Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth, was the trigger for his new focus, the development of green energy in Africa.

Zimu, 46, took up the position of chief executive officer of the South African unit of Indian wind power company, Suzlon Energy in 2010, after years working for power utilities that relied almost entirely on coal.

“It changed my outlook so much I started searching for green solutions,” he says.

After running City Power Johannesburg, a parastatal electricity distribution company, for three years, Zimu came to Suzlon with 19 years’ of experience in South Africa’s power industry, including senior roles at the country’s power monopoly, Eskom.

He has now played a part in securing two of the government’s wind power contracts, which will involve billions of rands of investments.

Under his stewardship, the group, one of the world’s leading wind turbine makers, has already started building 66 wind turbines near Cookhouse in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province. When the units are completed by 2016 it intends to sell power through Eskom’s national grid by 2016. It is the biggest renewable tender awarded in the first round of government tenders.

Suzlon will operate and maintain the turbines energy project selected during round one of the government’s Department of Energy’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (REIPPP). The awarding of tenders through the program has been a long time coming, with the policy amended at least once, leaving potential investors somewhat confused for a time.

The Cookhouse Wind Farm is being developed in partnership with African Clean Energy Developments (ACED), described as a South African-based renewable energy project developer, owned jointly by Old Mutual-owned African Infrastructure Investment Managers AFPOC Limited.

Fulfilling government’s desire that South Africa, in terms of job creation and the local communities, benefits from the renewable tenders, the Cookhouse Wind Farm Community Trust holds 25% equity in the project. It is anticipated that the local communities of Cookhouse, Bedford and Somerset East will be beneficiaries of the trust.

“The strategy is to make Suzlon a company that embraces empowerment in South Africa, to manufacture in the country and have offices here. We have a locally-appointed team. We know the playing field and know what we should be aiming for, while understanding government’s renewable framework. The last few years have been tough, but this is the risk one had to take,” says Zimu.

This partnership was part of the awarding of the first government tender. Under the REIPPP, government has said it wants 1,850 megwatts (MW) to be provided by a variety of renewable power sources annualy; this includes wind, solar and power generated from biomass. It hopes to have this much on line by 2021, adding to the country’s current installed capacity of about 40,000 MW.

When Suzlon SA won its first tender, Zimu says friends and family threw a surprise party for him, but he says,

“I would like to celebrate when the first megawatt is generated”.

Zimu, who has a Master’s in engineering, has a 20% stake in Suzlon’s South African unit. It is part of Suzlon Energy, which is the world’s fifth biggest vertically integrated wind turbine maker. He sits on the executive committee of the global group, which is based in Pune, India.

The first project will import the turbines and steel towers to assemble the windmills but Suzlon energy SA is planning to form an operations and maintenance company that will be South African-based.

The intention is to build the steel towers in South Africa for a second project. Zimu says the group has already been awarded a second contract. It will be announced in the next few months.

“We are working towards financial close on that.”

South Africa plans three rounds of bidding for renewable energy projects in the second round Suzlon again secured the biggest allocation in terms of power it will produce. The two projects combined, when up and running, will make Suzlon the second biggest wind turbine company in the country.

South Africa’s desire to build up its green energy sector to reduce its reliance on coal, head off potential power shortages, and meet ambitious targets for slashing greenhouse gas emissions is attracting assistance from other countries. Zimu expects companies like Suzlon to benefit.

In March, Denmark said it would work with the South African government towards its meeting of its renewable goals. The Danish government said in a statement that before the transition from coal to wind energy can take place, wind resources must be mapped and the power grid regulated to allow wind energy to be exploited to the fullest possible extent.

“If we can assist a country like South Africa to convert to more renewable, energy efficient power sources, the climate as a whole will benefit. In 2009, South Africa’s carbon dioxide emissions constituted half of Africa’s total emissions,” says Martin Lidegaard, the Danish minister for climate, energy and building.

Currently South Africa boasts some of the world’s biggest coal-fired power plants and generates some energy from nuclear, natural gas and hydropower sources. While crippling power outages in 2008 forced Eskom to press ahead with two major coal projects, the country’s aim is to spread its power generation across a number of technologies to take advantage of the nation’s abundant wind and solar power potential. Ambitious solar, wave power, hydro and biomass initiatives are also being considered.

Zimu says that Eskom has the capacity to make all the grid connections and the Danish government may help government develop a policy on grid codes.

Zimu is leading Suzlon’s charge into other African countries.

“We have been awarded work in Mauritius and are interested in tenders in Kenya and Namibia,” he says.

It also presented submissions for work in Madagascar and has been invited to visit interested parties in Nigeria, Angola and Ghana.

“I think South Africa is showing other African states the way,” says Zimu.

Even so, other African countries such as Morocco and Kenya are developing ambitious projects of their own. In Kenya the $800 million Lake Turkana Wind Power project is billed as the continent’s biggest and is expected to generate 300MW of electricity.

However, GDF Suez of French and Moroccan company Nareva Holding plan to build a plant of the same size in the desert region of the North African country. Morocco is planning to have 2,000MW of installed wind power by 2020. Lesotho, the mountainous country landlocked by in South Africa, has its own ambitious.

On whether the costs of wind power compare favorably to those of other renewables, Zimu pointed out that solar is more expensive and says wind energy can compete with projects powered by biofuels.

“My vision is to go green, generate green energy [and] create green jobs”.

Entrepreneurs

Covid-19: ‘Help Healthcare Systems In The Early Days Of Disease’

Published

on

A preliminary screening test app from the Philippines that can help individuals and healthcare systems diagnose Covid-19 symptoms sooner – and in a safer way.

Lars Jeppesen, the CEO and Co-Founder of Enadoc, a tech company based in Manila in the Philippines, and Wasantha Weerakoone, its CTO and Co-Founder, have always been passionate about healthcare. Although running Enadoc, which they co-founded in 2017 with technology solutions integrator Tech One Global, in the Covid-19 pandemic, Jeppesen says they saw an opportunity to not only make a difference, but also “expand the bandwidth and depth” of their services. Enadoc has now developed a screening test app that individuals can use at home, while healthcare institutions can use it on people who have developed symptoms of Covid-19. The Denmark-born entrepreneur shares more:

How did the Covid-19 screening test application come about?

In emerging economies and markets, even big countries like the US and many European countries, the number of doctors per person is limited… Now, we have a virus that has been spreading since November and if the doctor would have been some kind of AI in the background, maybe this data could have been available earlier saying ‘ok, we have some abnormal amount of people who are having the same symptoms, what is happening here?’ But because each doctor in each country, district and village deals with their own situation differently, all of us have our basic education but how do we keep ourselves up-to-date all the time with the latest? So it was always in my head ‘what can we do in this situation to bring more healthcare to more people, and help the healthcare systems in the early days of the disease to screen people or to help diagnose better?’

I think the diagnosis could be done more and more by AI sitting behind some application. And maybe with some telemedicine in between… Because of that, doctors can deal with more patients in a day and don’t need to deal with patients that could be contagious. The first paralyzing situation in the healthcare system was so many doctors and nurses got sick in the early days because they didn’t know what they were dealing with. So, if we had some kind of way of saying ‘ok, there’s something happening here, this patient needs to arrive in the hospital and be put in isolation before, or we need to have certain equipment to make sure we deal with this patient in a different way’, that made us think. Then you start to see the emergence of people coming up with some screening tools and we said ‘ok, maybe we could take all the information available that we could find in the World Health Organization, Department of Health, and all these different sources and put together some kind of framework to help in screening’. We did that and now the application is in data.

How are African countries using the app?

Right now, we have seen around six or seven countries using the app in Africa including Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and Uganda. We don’t know the exact location of the user, we just know the app has been used there. We don’t know the individual user, we don’t have an IP address or any phone ID. The platform we are using for the app is Microsoft services.

One of our intentions is to bring this product together with the healthcare app from Microsoft… We bring on the global healthcare AI into the backend of the app and create a kind of an app chat bot where you can say what your symptoms are, not only for Covid-19, but for any kind of disease.

Continue Reading

Current Affairs

Facebook Employees Stage Virtual Revolt Against Zuckerberg’s Inaction On Trump’s ‘Shooting’ Post

Published

on

By

TOPLINE Dozens of Facebook employees staged a virtual walkout on Monday, in an escalation of protests against CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s failure to act on President Trump’s “When the looting starts, the shooting starts” post.

KEY FACTS

  • Staff members flocked to rival platform Twitter for a second day, to denounce Zuckerberg’s “do-nothing” approach to Trump’s post that threatened violence toward George Floyd protesters.
  • One employee, Owen Anderson, announced in a tweet that he had quit the company.
  • “To be clear, this was in the works for a while. But after last week, I am happy to no longer support policies and values I vehemently disagree with,” he wrote.
  • Employees have also been circulating messages internally, with one staffer writing on a staff message board: “The hateful rhetoric advocating violence against black demonstrators by the U.S. President does not warrant defense under the guise of freedom of expression,” the New York Times reported. Others urged Zuckerberg to take down Trump’s post.
  • Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said employees will not have the protest days taken out of their vacation allowance, Reuters reported.
  • The walkout, staged virtually as all Facebook employees are working remotely in the pandemic,was triggered by Facebook’s refusal to take action over Trump’s inflammatory posts, while Twitter took the unprecedented step of flagging his comment for “glorifying violence.”
  • Zuckerberg has reportedly pushed the company’s weekly employee Q & A session from Friday to Tuesday.

CRUCIAL COMMENT

In a joint statement, a number of the virtual demonstrators tweeted: “Facebook’s recent decision to not act on posts that incite violence ignores other options to keep our community safe. We implore the Facebook leadership to #TakeAction.”

TANGENT

Online therapy company Talkspace has cut ties with Facebook over the issue. CEO Oren Frank tweeted on Monday: “We at Talkspace discontinued our partnership discussions with Facebook today. We will not support a platform that incites violence, racism, and lies. #BlackLivesMatter.”

NEWS PEG

President Trump has driven a wedge between Facebook staff and the social network’s founder. Facebook’s no-leak culture, and the largely united front between management and staff had largely weathered previous storms in its march to “connect the world.” That accord was shattered in a flood of tweets condemning Zuckerberg’s decision to keep Trump’s post on the site. Before the walkout, several senior employees blasted Zuckerberg’s defence of keeping the post on the site. Design manager Jason Stirman tweeted on Monday: “I‘m a FB employee that completely disagrees with Mark’s decision to do nothing about Trump’s recent posts, which clearly incite violence. I’m not alone inside of FB. There isn’t a neutral position on racism.”

In a post on Monday, Zuckerberg said Trump’s post and use of the historically racially charged phrase did not breach Facebook policies. “Our position is that we should enable as much expression as possible unless it will cause imminent risk of specific harms or dangers spelled out in clear policies,” he said.

KEY BACKGROUND

The death of George Floyd after white policeman Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes last Monday sparked outrage across the U.S. and subsequent protests in more than 75 cities. Companies, facing public pressure to speak out, have released statements pledging support to the black community, including Amazon, Netflix, Twitter and Peloton. On Monday, Zuckerberg announced Facebook is donating $10 million to groups campaigning for racial justice.

Isabel Togoh, Forbes Staff, Business

Continue Reading

Entrepreneurs

31% Of Small Businesses Have Stopped Operating Amid Coronavirus: Sheryl Sandberg Shares How Facebook’s Latest Product Aims To Help

Published

on

By

The coronavirus pandemic has continued to take a catastrophic toll on America’s small businesses. According to Facebook’s State of Small Business report, 31% of small businesses and 52% of personal businesses have stopped operating as a result of the crisis. 

“What we know today is pretty sobering,” says Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. “We’re in a really hard economic situation that is hitting all businesses, but particularly, small businesses really hard. We also know how critical small businesses are for jobs—long before coronavirus,” she says. “Two thirds of new jobs in this country happen because of small businesses and so that means what’s happening with small businesses has always been important, but it’s more important than ever.”

Especially concerning is that only 45% of business owners and managers plan to rehire the same number of workers when their businesses reopen. That number is just 32% for personal businesses. 

“If these businesses are letting people go, it’s not that they don’t want to rehire them,” Sandberg says. “It’s because they don’t think they’re going to be able to. That’s a pretty serious thing for us to be facing.”

Businesses that have been able to maintain operations still face significant hurdles, namely access to capital and customers. Some 28% of businesses surveyed say their biggest challenge over the next few months will be cash flow, while 20% say it will be lack of demand. 

The report, conducted in partnership with the Small Business Roundtable, was based on a survey of 86,000 owners, managers and workers at U.S. companies with fewer than 500 employees. It is also a part of the company’s broader data collection initiative with the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development on the Future of Business.

“We were already in the process of developing this report before the coronavirus pandemic hit,” Sandberg says. “We expected it to be a pretty rosy tale back then of low unemployment, flourishing entrepreneurship, and jobs growing all over the world. Fast forward to today and we’re in a very different position.”

An example of Facebook’s new Shops feature, which creates digital “storefronts” for businesses.
 
FACEBOOK

Now, the company is launching Facebook Shops, an ecommerce product that allows businesses to set up online “storefronts” on Facebook and Instagram. Businesses can customize their digital shops, using cover images to showcase their brands and catalogs to highlight their products. And just as customers can ask for help when shopping in physical stores, they can message business owners directly via WhatsApp, Messenger or Instagram Direct to ask questions, track deliveries and more. “Our goal is to make shopping seamless and empower anyone from a small business owner to a global brand to use our apps to connect with customers,” wrote Facebook cofounder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a post announcing the new product. As was the case with the survey, the rollout was planned prior to the pandemic, but was accelerated as businesses have turned to online tools to adapt in the face of the ongoing crisis. According to the survey, 51% of small business owners have  increased their online interactions with customers, and 36% of operational businesses are now conducting all sales online. 

“One of the things I find so amazing is how much of the activity has migrated online and that we’re doing things we never thought were possible,” says Sandberg. “If I had asked you or you had asked me, could I work entirely from home? Can my whole company go home? I would have said ‘No way.’ But we did it. Small businesses have even more entrepreneurial spirit.”

There are more than 30 million small businesses in the U.S., many of which are struggling to stay afloat amid forced closures and are still hoping to receive financial relief from the government. According to a recent survey by Goldman Sachs, 71% of Paycheck Protection Program applicants are still waiting for loans and 64% don’t have enough cash to survive the next three months. As of April 19, more than 175,000 businesses have shut down—temporarily or permanently—with closure rates rising 200% or more in hard-hit metropolitan cities like Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago, according to Yelp’s Q1 Economic Average report.

Employees of these businesses are disproportionately affected, with 74% and 70% reporting not having access to paid sick leave and paid time off, according to Facebook’s survey. For hotel, cafe and restaurant employees, those figures are over 90%.

Facebook, which relies heavily on small businesses for advertising revenue, was among the first major tech companies to provide much-needed aid. On March 17, the company announced $100 million in grants for small businesses, the majority of which will be distributed in cash, with some ad credits for business services. Of those funds, $40 million will be distributed across 34 American cities, with 50% being reserved for women, minority and veteran-owned businesses. The other $60 million will be distributed to small business owners throughout the world. In addition to financial assistance, the company also rolled out various product offerings including digital gift cardsfundraisers and easier ways for businesses to communicate service changes to their customers. 

Small businesses are resilient, even during times of crisis. According to the report, 57% of businesses are optimistic or extremely optimistic about the future, with only 11% of operating businesses expecting to fail in the next three months, should current conditions persist. 

“The report raises awareness about the struggles small businesses face from the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Rhett Buttle, founder of Public Private Strategies and co-executive director of the Small Business Roundtable. “But small businesses have brought us out of previous economic downturns and they will do so again.”

Maneet Ahuja, Forbes Staff, Entrepreneurs

Continue Reading

Trending