The organisation’s two biggest entrepreneurial programmes, bakeries and poultry farming are aimed at combatting unemployment while helping to improve food security. (Images: Siyabonga Africa, via Facebook)South Africa is constantly making efforts to push back and reduce the effects of poverty and unemployment. That they are still such critical concerns highlights the need for change and the need for South Africans to take action to help the growth and development of underprivileged residents.With this in mind Siyabonga Africa, a non-profit organisation in Brakpan, Gauteng, has been working to lessen the effects of poverty on the underprivileged and arm them with the skills and resources they need to improve their standing.The organisation began in the 1980s with a feeding scheme established by Ronald and Yvonne Dell on the East Rand, with the help of community leaders in the area. It included the distribution of donated clothing and help in restoring families that had been torn apart by poverty.Their efforts continued to gather momentum and in 2004 the Siyabonga Africa development centre was established in hopes of addressing the shortage of skills and jobs in the surrounding community.“We look for people who put their hands up instead of their hands out, and we aim to nurture an entrepreneur’s spirit that does have an impact for years to come,” says Nathan Dell, the chairman of Siyabonga Africa.In 2004 the Siyabonga Africa development centre was established in hopes of addressing the shortage of skills and jobs.PROGRAMMESFor more than a decade the organisation has focused the bulk of its efforts on entrepreneurship programmes through which it works to impart knowledge that is key to starting and running sustainable businesses.The organisation’s two biggest entrepreneurial programmes are bakeries and poultry farming. They look to combat unemployment while helping to improve food security. The bakery programme has led to the establishment of more than 300 bakeries across the country and almost 2 000 jobs.“Our poultry farming programme is a very exciting one because it’s one of the small to medium enterprises with the highest growth potential in South Africa,” says Dell. “We offer a business management course that is an introduction to business fundamentals which are specific to poultry farming.”Siyabonga Africa also has the largest food bank and distribution centre in the province, he says, which feeds thousands of people each month. In addition, the organisation has a temporary housing project aimed at helping individuals and families in a transition phase or in between places.“We also have an advice desk where we help people get all their legal documents in order and help them get into the mainstream economy.”The group gives unskilled people a launch pad or platform from which they can build themselves up and go on to become self-sufficient members of society. In turn, these people are then in a position to go on and help others who are in similar situations fulfil their potential.PLAY YOUR PARTAre you playing your part to help improve the lives of the people around you or the environment? Do you know of anyone who has gone out of their way to help improve South Africa and its people?If so, submit your story or video to our website and let us know what you are doing to improve the country for all.
If you had a choice between building new homes that meet basic standards and building comfortable, healthy homes that dramatically cut energy bills, which would you prefer? How about if the low-energy homes cost the same (or nearly the same) as a standard home to build? If the cost is relatively equal, shouldn’t every new home be built this way? A recent Rocky Mountain Institute report, The Economics of Zero-Energy Homes: Single-Family Insights, makes the case that not only is this vision becoming achievable, in some locations in the United States the economics are in place today to make cost parity (almost) a reality. And in one New England location — thanks to progressive incentives and energy codes — it is a reality. In our report, we analyzed four cities — Houston, Atlanta, Baltimore, and Chicago — to determine the current incremental cost to build a zero-energy (ZE) or zero-energy ready (ZER) home in Climate Zones 2 through 5 (where 90% of new construction homes are built) to determine the most cost-optimal energy upgrade package.RELATED ARTICLESBest Path to Net-Zero EnergyZero Energy Ready Homes Gain GroundEvery New Home Should be Zero-Energy ReadyZero-Energy Homes Are Ready for the MainstreamA Production Builder Offers Net-Zero-Energy Homes ZE homes produce or procure as much renewable energy as they consume over the course of a year. ZER homes are designed to achieve ZE levels of efficiency but don’t yet have photovoltaics. We found that the cost increase to build a ZE or ZER home is modest in all four zones, with incremental costs averaging 7.3% for ZE homes and 1.8% for ZER homes — far less than consumers, builders, and policymakers may realize. To scale the results of our four-city analysis across the country, we used R.S. Means to adjust the labor and material costs, PVWatts to adjust the solar resource, EnergySage to adjust the solar cost, and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s analysis of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) to adjust incremental costs in relation to local energy codes. We did not factor in local incentives. Using this approach, we approximated the incremental cost in the 47 most populous U.S. cities (see the table below). At a 1.1% incremental cost, many cities on this list may have incentives available that could result in cost parity for ZER homes. This is exciting because ZER homes can be built anywhere regardless of solar resource and roof design, and so are incredibly scalable. Table 1: Zero-energy and zero-energy ready results scaled to the 50 most populous cities in the US (Note: Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Miami were among the top 50 most populous cities but were excluded because they are outside of IECC climate zones 2–5.) City ZE Incremental Cost Energy Savings for ZE ZER Incremental Cost Energy Savings for ZER New York City, NY $19,534 $2,270 $4,166 $850 Los Angeles, CA $18,661 $2,011 $2,330 $701 Chicago, IL $19,702 $2,059 $1,945 $746 Houston, TX $14,713 $1,365 $1,290 $431 Phoenix, AZ $15,619 $1,728 $1,769 $602 Philadelphia, PA $22,103 $1,281 $7,621 $608 San Antonio, TX $15,298 $1,340 $1,243 $444 San Diego, CA $17,733 $1,128 $2,228 $393 Dallas, TX $15,195 $1,473 $1,681 $513 San Jose, CA $18,581 $1,743 $2,634 $607 Austin, TX $15,066 $1,331 $1,228 $441 Jacksonville, FL $12,806 $1,390 $1,243 $464 San Francisco, CA $17,953 $2,608 $2,694 $909 Columbus, OH $20,095 $2,410 $3,877 $1,094 Fort Worth, TX $15,291 $1,473 $1,661 $513 Indianapolis, IN $19,903 $1,957 $3,919 $889 Charlotte, NC $18,857 $1,668 $6,509 $722 Washington D.C. $17,121 $1,855 $2,738 $699 Seattle, WA $13,815 $1,349 $3,125 $505 Atlanta, GA $19,548 $1,833 $6,094 $794 Denver, CO $24,248 $1,860 $1,358 $674 Boston, MA $21,050 $1,816 $1,837 $658 El Paso, TX $17,694 $1,639 $1,600 $571 Detroit, MI $19,753 $2,508 $1,574 $909 Nashville, TN $19,355 $1,812 $5,406 $860 Memphis, TN $18,864 $1,613 $5,817 $699 Portland, OR $15,551 $1,531 $2,976 $573 Oklahoma City, OK $16,153 $1,374 $1,641 $479 Las Vegas, NV $17,793 $1,589 $2,066 $558 Louisville, KT $19,647 $1,771 $5,667 $840 Baltimore, MD $15,828 $2,000 $2,738 $749 Albuquerque, NM $26,654 $2,103 $5,406 $998 Tucson, AZ $16,306 $1,396 $1,321 $466 Fresno, CA $18,013 $1,743 $2,390 $607 Sacramento, CA $17,915 $1,834 $2,411 $639 Mesa, AZ $16,586 $1,499 $2,140 $616 Kansas City, MO $19,806 $1,897 $3,035 $711 Long Beach, CA $18,305 $1,372 $2,269 $478 Omaha, NE $24,060 $2,171 $3,834 $986 Raleigh, NC $18,805 $1,633 $6,440 $707 Colorado Springs, CO $26,694 $2,277 $3,578 $1,034 Virginia Beach, VA $16,773 $1,502 $2,827 $566 Oakland, CA $17,911 $1,743 $2,613 $607 Tulsa, OK $16,887 $1,136 $1,661 $396 Arlington, TX $15,296 $1,473 $1,702 $513 New Orleans, LA $16,859 $1,261 $1,337 $418 Wichita, KS $19,162 $1,865 $2,440 $703 The importance of codes and incentives Our research uncovered a basic truth: Not all cities are created equal in terms of the cost to build ZE and ZER homes. Even the exact same home with the exact same energy upgrade package can result in significantly different costs in a different city. Why? Robust local building energy codes (like IECC 2015), better solar resources, lower labor and material costs, and comprehensive incentives all make it easier to build ZE and ZER homes at a lower cost. Therefore, cities with these features get closer to ZE/ZER cost parity, and those without are farther from parity. For example, Chicago has a stronger building energy code than the modeled baseline (IECC 2015 versus 2009, respectively). ComEd, the utility that serves Chicago, offers incentives for appliances, smart thermostats, heat pump systems, and heat-pump water heaters. The combination of stronger energy codes and solid local incentives brings the incremental cost of a ZER home in Chicago from $5,368 to $495, as seen in the bar graph below. At this incremental cost, ZER homes would pay back in less than a year through utility bill savings. Impact of stronger energy codes and incentives on incremental ZER cost in Chicago One city is already proving that building cost-parity ZER homes is a reality, thanks to a forward-thinking program from Mass Save, a collaborative of Massachusetts’ natural gas and electric utilities and energy efficiency service providers, including Berkshire Gas, Blackstone Gas Company, Cape Light Compact, Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, Eversource, Liberty Utilities, National Grid, and Unitil. The program offers performance-based incentives that offset the entire estimated incremental cost of $1,837, meaning that the cost barrier to ZER homes is eliminated in Boston. Building ZE homes at ZER prices While ZER homes are nearing and, in some cases, even achieving cost parity, ZE homes appear to have a long way to go before cost parity is achieved. But what if we could build ZE homes at ZER prices? Enter third-party-owned solar financing. There are two types of third-party-owned solar financing methods: a solar lease and a solar power purchase agreement (PPA). In a solar lease, the customer pays a specified amount every month, regardless of the system’s energy production. In a solar PPA, the customer pays a specified amount per kilowatt-hour of generation, so the amount paid varies monthly as a function of generation. In 2017, 41% of residential solar was third-party owned, so this is a common model. By utilizing third-party-owned solar financing, builders can build a ZER home and, at no additional upfront cost, turn it into a ZE home. Further, in some locations, solar PPA or loan providers can offer contracts that provide homeowners with cheaper electricity rates than those available through utilities. Notably, Lennar, the second largest builder in the United States, recently created a PPA that sets the solar price 20% below utility rates for 20 years. This means homeowners will pay lower utility bills than living in a ZER home, and all their energy consumption will be offset by solar. Getting over the finish line Many cities are close to achieving cost parity for ZER and ZE homes, and city policymakers can take action to help push them across the finish line. Stronger energy codes will bring the bar higher for all new construction homes, and therefore lower the incremental cost of ZER. Additionally, city policymakers can work with the local utility to provide comprehensive incentives for homes that are performing significantly better than code baseline. Finally, to help ZE homes achieve cost parity, city policymakers can encourage businesses to offer PPAs and solar loans by working with utilities to offer favorable interconnection and net-metering policies and by providing clarity around any legal or regulatory requirements for third-party solar ownership models. To learn more about The Economics of Zero Energy Homes: Single Family Insights report, check out the Zero-Energy Homes Are Ready for Mainstream Markets blog or this webinar summarizing the report. Stay tuned for an update that includes Climate Zones 6 and 7 and a similar report featuring multifamily buildings coming out in the first quarter of 2019. Alisa Petersen is a senior associate on Rocky Mountain Institute’s Buildings team. ©2018 Rocky Mountain Institute. Published with permission. Originally posted at RMI Outlet.