By James Bicamumpaka, Michael Lowry and Sibongiseni Mamba
Early last year, Waterford Kamhlaba United World College of Southern Africa (UWCSA) students, James Bicamumpaka and Michael Lowry, stood side by side with some of the world’s leaders at a glittering ceremony in Abu Dhabi, to receive a US$100 000 Zayed Future Energy Prize1 on behalf of the Swazilandbased school.
Waterford Kamhlaba was awarded the first prize in the African Global Schools category during the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, held in the United Arab Emirates city. Bicamumpaka and Lowry received the prize on behalf of their five-member team, which included Alex Poyatsis, Ryan Taylor and Grace Lui.
The Zayed Future Energy Prize (ZFEP) celebrates achievements that reflect impact, innovation, long-term vision and leadership in renewable energy and sustainability. It challenges future leaders to commit themselves to the challenges of responding to and managing climate change, energy conservation and use, as well as preserving the environment.
Carbon-neutral by 2025
Swaziland battles energy challenges, and Waterford Kamhlaba has committed itself to being part of the solution. The country’s energy company, Swaziland Electricity Company (SEC), currently imports about 80% of its electricity from neighbouring South Africa, which is almost entirely generating its power from harmful coal power stations. “This is actually very sad because the potential is here, it just isn’t explored enough. Swaziland has a solar potential which is higher than many countries which are investing in this technology, which means we have the ability to create a huge impact on our consumption of non-renewable energy. The problem is either that people don’t know about these solutions or are not worried about the consequences our consumption will inevitably have. And that’s where we come in,” says Lowry.
Waterford has embarked on an ambitious vision to become carbon-neutral by 2025. The Zayed project has laid a good foundation on which this vision is being built. It has been a
great platform to inspire and sensitise the student body about the values of conserving energy. The Zayed project has a very strong education component, which will, in future, be rolled out to the community around Waterford Kamhlaba.
Warriors doing the hard work
“Sustainability is a principle I greatly believe in. Being sustainable is necessary, especially at this time when we are experiencing an energy crisis and fossil fuels are depleting due to high industrialisation levels. We have reached a point where being sustainable is no longer a choice but a duty. We come from a history where we were not aware of the ecological impact of our activities, but this has changed, because the media constantly portrays how CO2 emissions are degrading the planet,” says Bicamumpaka.
“After being awarded with the ZFEP, we were welcomed home as heroes. This media attention was wrongfully directed, as the real heroes are those who are constantly developing renewable energy technology and leaders such as Al Gore2 who are currently doing great work in trying to combat climate change,” he believes.
In the course of the year, the ‘Waterford Zayed’ team, which now consists of 11 members, has been hard at work implementing several projects, with the support of the school’s eco-estate manager, Michael Doyle. A bio-digester to heat cafeteria water, a wind turbine connecting to the main grid and the conversion of hostel electric geysers to solar thermal utilities are underway. Another project in the pipeline is the installation of a 28kW solar PV system, sufficient to power an entire classroom block. An energy hub, the central meeting point of these renewable technologies, will also be built. This hub will monitor energy production in real time, and monitor energy savings so that the school will be able to quantify its carbon footprint. All these projects tie in to Waterford’s vision of achieving carbon neutrality by 2025.
“This is an ambitious goal,” Lowry admits. “However, looking at our progress, determination and effective administration, I believe this vision is indeed very realistic.”
IThe team members are currently developing an expansive, versatile and inspiring presentation to spread the word on renewable energy and to inspire people to take action. The team aims to both explain and promote the necessity and the benefits of alternative energy sources, as well as more eco-friendly ways of living. The educational aims of this outreach programme are divided into seven different categories:
• sustainability – an introduction
• wind energy
• solar thermal geysers
• solar photo-voltaic panels
• monitoring systems
“Part of the challenge of developing an educational aspect to the project was that we would need to be able to pitch it to a range of audiences,” Doyle states.
“We hope to spread the message as widely as possible, because we feel that we have been given a big responsibility by being given the Zayed Future Energy Prize. We don’t want to
waste the opportunity or the honour.”
All these different aspects of the project come together to form a comprehensive “Guide to the future, ‘demo’ included”, as Doyle puts it. The team hopes that in the years to come, big changes will start to be seen around the school and beyond. With the school’s support and with the cooperation of the Waterford Kamhlaba community and friends, they are confident that this project will continue to expand, using the funds that will be saved on the electricity bill!
1. See: http://www.zayedfutureenergyprize.com/en/.
2. See, for example: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/al-goreted- talk-vancouver-1.3444986.
Category: Autumn 2016