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Get a share of solar

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FedGroup has recently launched its shared ownership system where investors receive a physical asset to generate income.

Independent financial services provider FedGroup has launched a shared ownership system as part of its effort to disrupt traditional approaches to wealth creation. Unlike traditional wealth creation approaches, where money is invested, this model involves the ownership of a physical asset to generate income.

The first project under this banner allows members of the public to own one or more solar panels that form part of a larger solar facility, located on the roofs of commercial and industrial buildings. The panels can be purchased on FedGroup’s online platform and are then installed on suitable sites, with the owners receiving a monthly rental income based on the power generated by the panels. FedGroup then collects and pays over the rental income to the panel owners.

The direct ownership network operates on the peer-to-peer model, where the landlords of sites, the providers and installers of the solar panels, and those wishing to own the panels are connected.

“FedGroup is always looking to implement the latest technology to drive down fees and maximise returns for our clients,” says Grant Field, CEO of FedGroup. “Therefore, introducing direct ownership for wealth creation to the South African market is a logical progression in terms of our product offering. Through the use of technology, we are able to actively track the performance of the panels, which translates into money generated for the owner.

“Our pilot project indicates that panel owners can expect to receive an internal rate of return on the purchase price in excess of 11% per annum, over the 20-year lifespan of the project. Because it is a green project, they can also apply for tax benefits, to further boost their returns. At the end of the 20-year term, owners can take physical ownership of the panel, or sell it back at a guaranteed residual value of R1 000.”

While the buyer owns the asset, FedGroup is tasked with the management, maintenance, insurance and optimisation of the panels.

“Because the rental income is calculated according to the performance of the panels, they would produce more on sunny days than on cloudy ones, but the sunny South African climate and our particularly high irradiance levels add to the profitability of this project,” says Field. “The returns are secured through a contract with the building owner to pay a monthly fee, determined by the amount of electricity generated. The money collected from the building owner every month is then distributed to the owners.”

Owners are able to track the performance of their panels online at any time. Because the panels are physically owned, FedGroup will soon be introducing a convenient secondary market to provide liquidity for anyone wishing to sell their solar asset.

The installation of solar panels also has several advantages for building owners, particularly in the case of older buildings, as many of them still bear the legacy of being energy inefficient, having been built at a time when electricity was cheap. Through this initiative, building owners now have an added incentive to retrofit their buildings with energy-efficient technology and turn the unused space on their roofs into profitable assets.

In addition to solar panels, FedGroup is also in the process of bringing other direct ownership opportunities to market.

“Each project is chosen on merit,” says Field. “We chose solar generation as our first project because we recognised the trend towards environmental sustainability in consumers’ purchasing behaviour. In addition, consumers understand solar power generation, making it a suitable product for the introduction of the concept of direct ownership.

“The beauty of the direct ownership model is that it can be applied to an almost limitless array of underlying assets, and we have a number of very exciting projects in the pipeline,” says Field. “While the asset being sold will differ, the model of direct ownership for wealth creation will remain consistent.”

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UN calls for electronics overhaul to beat e-waste

Seven UN entities have come together at the World Economic Forum to tackle the escalating scourge of electronic waste.

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Seven UN entities have come together, supported by the World Economic Forum, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) to call for an overhaul of the current electronics system, with the aim of supporting international efforts to address e-waste challenges. 

The report calls for a systematic collaboration with major brands, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), academia, trade unions, civil society and associations in a deliberative process to reorient the system and reduce the waste of resources each year with a value greater than the GDP of most countries. 

Each year, approximately 50 million tonnes of electronic and electrical waste (e-waste) are discarded — the weight of more than all commercial airliners ever made. In terms of material value, this is worth 62.5 billion dollars– more than the GDP of most countries.  

Less than 20% of this is recycled formally. Informally, millions of people worldwide (over 600,000 in China alone) work to dispose of e-waste, much of it done in working conditions harmful to both health and the environment. 

The report, “A New Circular Vision for Electronics – Time for a Global Reboot,” launched in Davos 24 January, says technologies such as cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT), support gradual “dematerialization” of the electronics industry.  

Meanwhile, to capture the global value of materials in the e-waste and create global circular value chains, the report also points to the use of new technology to create service business models, better product tracking and manufacturer or retailer take-back programs.  

The report notes that material efficiency, recycling infrastructure and scaling up the volume and quality of recycled materials to meet the needs of electronics supply chains will all be essential for future production.  

And if the electronics sector is supported with the right policy mix and managed in the right way, it could lead to the creation of millions of decent jobs worldwide. 

The joint report calls for collaboration with multinationals, SMEs, entrepreneurs, academia, trade unions, civil society and associations to create a circular economy for electronics where waste is designed out, the environmental impact is reduced and decent work is created for millions. 

The new report supports the work of the E-waste Coalition, which includes: 

  • International Labour Organization (ILO); 
  • International Telecommunication Union (ITU); 
  • United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment); 
  • United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); 
  • United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR); 
  • United Nations University (UNU), and 
  • Secretariats of the Basel and Stockholm Conventions (BRS). 

The Coalition is supported by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the World Economic Forum and coordinated by the Secretariat of the Environment Management Group (EMG).  

Considerable work is being done on the ground. For example, in order to grasp the opportunity of the circular economy, today the Nigerian Government, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and UN Environment announce a 2 million dollar investment to kick off the formal e-waste recycling industry in Nigeria. The new investment will leverage over 13 million dollars in additional financing from the private sector.   

According to the International Labour Organization, in Nigeria up 100,000 people work in the informal e-waste sector. This investment will help to create a system which formalizes these workers, giving them safe and decent employment while capturing the latent value in Nigeria’s 500,000 tonnes of e-waste. 

UNIDO collaborates with a large number of organizations on e-waste projects, including UNU, ILO, ITU, and WHO, as well as various other partners, such as Dell and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA). In the Latin American and Caribbean region, a UNIDO e-waste project, co-funded by GEF, seeks to support sustainable economic and social growth in 13 countries. From upgrading e-waste recycling facilities, to helping to establish national e-waste management strategies, the initiative adopts a circular economy approach, whilst enhancing regional cooperation. 

Another Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE) report launched today by the World Economic Forum, with support from Accenture Strategy, outlines a future in which Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies provide a tool to achieve a circular economy efficiently and effectively, and where all physical materials are accompanied by a digital dataset (like a passport or fingerprint for materials), creating an ‘internet of materials.’ PACE is a collaboration mechanism and project accelerator hosted by the World Economic Forum which brings together 50 leaders from business, government and international organizations to collaborate in moving towards the circular economy. 

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Matrics must prepare for AI

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students writing a test

By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.

Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.

With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.

Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.

Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist. 

So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?

For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.

In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.

This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.

In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.

As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.

This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.

The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.

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