Marlyn Hendricks, Bashkaran Vandeyar and Avuyile Kewana work for the City of Cape Town, helping the municipality to mitigate climate change problems and meet the goals of its Climate Change Action Plan. As a project manager and senior professional officer for municipal generation contracts, part of Marlyn’s job is getting rooftop and ground-mounted photovoltaic (PV) installations up and running on municipal facilities, including working on the Atlantis 7MWp ground-mounted solar photovoltaic facility and a 125kWp rooftop solar PV system in Gugulethu. “I am helping the city to move beyond its boundaries by developing, executing, operating and maintaining renewable energy generation facilities,” he says. Bashkaran is head of green energy at the city. An electrical engineer by training, he does technical gymnastics to bring more green energy into the local grid and has aided in the development of an energy storage road map to facilitate the piloting of battery energy storage, increasing the city’s own generation to offset consumption from Eskom and rolling out energy efficiency projects for heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems and lighting at municipal buildings. As assistant professional officer for energy in the built environment, Avuyile has been instrumental in supporting the city’s energy performance certificates in the municipal assets compliance programme. This has seen a total of 69 city buildings become compliant (compared to a total of 14 for all other municipalities in the country combined) and has opened up the conversation around the importance of energy efficiency as a climate change mitigation strategy. She has effectively collaborated with stakeholders across the city and supported them with data and information to achieve this.
What’s been your/the organisation’s greatest achievement in your field?
My greatest achievement is being appointed as a project manager at the City of Cape Town and successfully leading and motivating the project team in the development and appointment of an Engineering Procurement Construction contractor for the first “city-owned” utility-scale renewable energy plant, the Atlantis 7MWp Ground-Mounted Solar Photovoltaic (Atlantis PV). Pioneering in this ambitious and unchartered territory, as a municipality, has led to the discovery of new problems and complexities that required a deepening of knowledge, understanding, skills and competencies that enabled me to devise and co-create innovative solutions with the project team. I have also successfully completed the installation and commercial operation of a 125kWp rooftop solar PV system in Gugulethu and I am on track to complete the installation and commercial operation of a 330kWp rooftop solar PV and 990kWp ground-mounted solar PV systems at city-owned facilities. These three projects are the city’s largest small-scale embedded generation solar PV systems.
The development of an energy storage road map to facilitate the piloting of battery energy storage, as part of a broader energy strategy.
In 2021, the city became the first municipality in South Africa to obtain Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) for its municipal buildings portfolio, while in 2022, an additional 66 EPCs were issued and obtained, making the city the leading municipality in South Africa with 69 EPCs.
Please provide specific examples of how your organisation’s practices and work have a positive effect on the environment
The City of Cape Town municipality is among the leaders in fighting climate change problems. It is one of the first municipalities to have EPCs displayed and fully compliant with SANS 1544:2014 regulation. Another example of our “clean” practices is the Bellville Wastewater Treatment Plant that received ISO 50001 certification, which recognises this facility for its leading efforts in energy efficiency. It is the first municipal wastewater treatment plant in South Africa to achieve this global energy management standard.
Furthermore, the city has embarked on a diverse and wide-ranging renewable energy programme, mostly driven by its international and local commitments towards mitigating the effects of climate change through the utilisation of sustainable energy sources.
The city’s Climate Change Strategy recognises that “meeting the city’s goals of carbon neutrality by 2050 is highly contingent on the city being able to procure or generate its own renewable electricity”. The projects I am responsible for will help to contribute to the achievement of several strategic focus areas and goals of the Climate Change Action Plan.
The development of the city’s own generation to offset consumption from Eskom (and emissions thereof).
Rolling out energy efficiency projects for heating, ventilation and air conditioning and lighting at municipal buildings.
Enabling renewable energy uptake through feed-in tariffs and processes for SSEG uptake.
Maximising the use of pumped storage to provide load-shedding mitigation, as opposed to fossil-fuel based sources.
Piloting the issue of Energy Performance Certificates.
Cape Town, along with the major metropolitan municipalities in South Africa and nearly 100 of the world’s largest cities, has signed up to C40’s Deadline 2020programme, which aims to put cities on track to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and achieve carbon neutrality and climate resilience by 2050. The carbon-neutrality component of the Deadline 2020 commitment includes a parallel commitment to attain net-zero carbon emissions from the city’s own buildings (both existing and new) by 2030, for all new buildings in Cape Town by 2030, and for all existing buildings in Cape Town by 2050. This is underpinned in our Climate Change Strategy (and supporting Climate Change Action Plan).
What are some of the biggest environmental challenges faced by South Africans today?
The use of fossil fuels, such as coal, that makes up 80% of South African energy mix, contributes negatively towards climate change and is a major source of air pollution. While we do have a nuclear plant, hydro-electric plants and even wind farms, we are trailing behind the world in producing a “cleaner” form of electrical energy.
Another major environmental challenge in South Africa is that many provinces are experiencing droughts. Limpopo, Northern Cape and North West are experiencing extreme problems with their rain-fed crops. With the growing population, and the lack of effective town planning in certain areas in South Africa, many taps have run dry. Provinces such as the Eastern Cape are struggling with water security.
The energy trilemma exacerbated by load-shedding and challenges with ensuring a just economic transition with a heavily coal-based generation fleet.
Air pollution from several sectors.
South Africa today faces several environmental challenges, which are interconnected and complex and often require multifaceted solutions from various stakeholders, such as the government, businesses and communities. Some of the challenges include inadequate waste management, water scarcity, air pollution, land degradation, biodiversity loss and energy problems.
Our theme this year is Celebrating Environment Heroes. What do you believe could be the repercussions for millions of people in South Africa and the continent if we do not tackle problems exacerbated by climate change, encompassing issues like drought, floods, fires, extreme heat, biodiversity loss, and pollution of air and water?
One of the major results of climate change is rising temperatures and this will have a direct impact on the fynbos in South Africa. It seems that after the fires more and more fynbos species are not sprouting because of the hotter summers. This means that invaders such as the eucalyptus will spread in the areas formerly covered by fynbos.
Without our indigenous plants food chains that depend on the plants will be disrupted, leading to a loss in biodiversity.
Another major effect of the rising temperature is that our wetlands will not be able to clean flowing water and stop flash floods.
Ultimately, these forces would amplify the effects on water scarcity, maintaining a healthy ecosystem, food security and overall health of the population.
The spill-over effects impact tourism (especially loss of biodiversity), GDP, the distribution of resources and ultimately hurt the economy. With a weak economy, short-term thinking proliferates and longer-term issues such as climate change are not prioritised, which creates a cycle.
In the long term, it could mean greater inequality and general lower standards of living for all.
Some consequences include: water scarcity, food insecurity, increased health risks, displacement and migration, economic impacts, biodiversity loss, energy problems and social and political Instability