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Big chance for bright idea

Funisile Zothe, named Community Energy Champion last year, has shown what one person with a commitment to the environment can achieve. Entries for this year’s competition open next week and could win up to R30 000 for a bright idea.

A general worker at an Eastern Cape school is the driving force behind one of the most innovative renewable energy projects in the country.

From the Three Crowns Junior Secondary School in the Kavali Village, Lady Frere, Funisile Zothe has for the past four years been running his own initiatives aimed at promoting sustainable energy use, which garnered him a prestigious Eskom eta Award last year.

Zothe has implemented a biogas facility ‚ a technology that produces biofuel by breaking down organic matter such as dead plant and animal material, animal dung and kitchen waste- as well as a waste water treatment facility, a 2kW wind/solar hybrid system and 12 worm farms at the secondary school.

Zothe is committed to promoting and implementing an energy saving culture at home and in the community as a whole. He teaches the learners at his school about these novel technologies and practices to inspire and motivate them.

Because of this demonstration of dedication to making the school and thereby his whole community more energy efficient, Zothe is the Eskom eta Award’s reigning Community Energy Champion.

Zothe says: ‚We started this project because this area we live in is very poverty-stricken. There is a severe lack of employment, and development has been very slow. But because of this project, our livelihoods have improved significantly and it has made a huge difference. We are going to continue with this project because people in the community have seen how it has changed their lives by saving money and giving back to nature.‚

The Eskom eta Awards recognise exceptional, innovative and outstanding efforts by individuals, students, companies and other institutions in the efficient use of energy. The winner in each category receives a cash amount of R30 000 and R5 000 goes to each of the runners up in each category.

Says Dr Steve Lennon, chairperson of the eta Awards steering committee and divisional executive: Sustainability: ‚Eskom is committed to rewarding individuals who embrace energy efficiency through the eta Awards. As the country’s electricity provider we are always on the lookout for people who are doing good work in helping to reducing their electricity consumption and we are very excited that Funisile Zothe is motivating young South African’s to join the energy efficiency movement.‚

In addition to the biogas facility Zothe has introduced a solar cooker, much to the pleasure of the learners’ mothers. The solar cooker has a solar dish and a stand where pots can be placed to cook hot meals everyday for the learners.

He has also found an innovative way to water the school’s vegetable garden. By simply collecting drinks bottles and recycling them to build a greenhouse Zothe is able to produce enough water to ensure the garden continues to produce veggies to support the school’s feeding programme.

Zothe’s project has been so successful that it is already being replicated and implemented in four communities in the Chris Hani district, and is set to expand.

‚We are very excited that more and more South Africans are thinking about energy efficiency and doing something to reduce the strain on the national electricity grid. We encourage anyone who is doing something in energy efficiency to enter the competition. Who knows you could be the winner of the R30 000 grand prize,‚ says Dr Lennon.

Entries for the 2012 competition open on 2 April 2012 and close on 3 August 2012. If you are doing something extraordinary to be more energy efficient, then why not enter the Eskom eta Awards and you could win up to R30 000 for your bright idea.

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