Small town Atlantis a hub for green innovation

(This article was published on 28 May 2016 in the Weekend Argus, a weekly newspaper published by Independent Media in Cape Town, Western Cape province.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Innovative renewable energy businesses in Atlantis are not only contributing to Cape Town’s green economy but also creating jobs for locals.

Atlantis is just under an hour’s drive from central Cape Town and is usually associated with poverty and accompanying social ills.

When Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille visited the small town yesterday, she met with renewable energy businesses to discuss their role in the energy eco-system.

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Mayor Patricia de Lille with iSolar workers Jason Valentine (left) and Lezell Erasmus in Atlantis yesterday. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

Thirteen companies, all part of the South African Renewable Energy Business Incubator (Sarebi) in Atlantis, collectively received R500,000 from the City of Cape Town last year.

De Lille said assisting these businesses was part of a plan to ensure that locals could cope with Eskom’s power cuts and also save money by using renewable energy sources.

Instead of paying Eskom for electricity, locals could generate their own power at home via solar panel geysers, for example.

“Atlantis is an area that has faced difficult social and economic challenges, including high unemployment. Our support to this area underscores our commitment to building an opportunity city,” said De Lille.

De Lille said city officials have set up the Atlantis Investment Incentive Scheme back in 2013 to encourage businesses to open up shop and create jobs in the area.

Businesses are offered various incentives, including a reduction in electricity fees, when they open their doors in Atlantis, said De Lille.

De Lille said since 2013, “16 new companies have opened their doors”.

“At the same time it is estimated that more than 1 500 jobs have been retained by pre-existing businesses taking up incentives. There are additionally a number of exciting new investments in the pipeline,” she said.

Sarebi general manager Helmut Hertzog said they started in 2010 and since then have been helping up to 13 renewable energy businesses operate.

The incubator offers businesses space to produce their goods as well as a host of other business services and training.

Hertzog said the city’s R500 000 helped the small businesses improve their manufacturing processes, improve physical structures and fine-tune their operations.

Hertzog said the Sarebi was open to any people who have a renewable energy business idea in the Western Cape and who needed help to take it to the marketplace.

“We offer a three-month workshop where we focus on helping entrepreneurs define and cost a business concept. It can be a service of manufacture business,” he said.

“We help them get the concept sorted. Then there’s a six-month phase after that when the business is defined. It’s a structured series of workshops.

“We then help the businesses find clients and sell their product or service.”

One of Sarebi’s incubator projects, iSolar, has just won a tender to supply solar-powered geysers to the national energy department.

The company’s founder David October said they have already supplied solar-powered geysers to the Cape Winelands District Municipality. It has created jobs for 65 people, half of whom live in Atlantis.

“We will build 500 geysers a month for the department for the next 12 months. The department will install the geysers in various areas in the country,” said October.

“I have also completed geysers that were installed in the city’s Langa housing project. We build and install geysers and our contracts have been worth millions of rands.”

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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