Parkhurst’s plan to go off the grid

According to Ryan Beech and the Parkhurst Residents and Business Owners Association, the Johannesburg suburb plans to ditch Eskom’s grid to become a self-sustaining eco-hub by 2020.

The more than 2000 households will be driving electric cars, growing their own food and turning their sewage into biogas

This plan will turn Parkhurst into the first urban area on the continent that will be completely off the grid.

Beech, who is at the head of the upmarket suburb’s green makeover, says that residents, many of whom work from home, are fed-up with Eskom. Saying that the total lack of reliability from Eskom is one of the driving factors behind this movement. Adding, “We need power, and we need reliability."

Though in its infancy, their project is not only focused on inculcating a love for renewable energy.

"It's about transport, recycling and growing our own food. We want to develop a model that shows the whole South Africa that it's possible to do this, with the best and most affordable technology."

BMW, he points out, is installing charge stations for the electric vehicles of Parkhurst's future.

He predicts the suburb's pioneering eco-drive could start an environmental wave. "Our neighbouring communities of Emmarentia and Greenside have contacted us, because they are interested in doing the same."

Trendy restaurants in the suburb are interested in converting their oil into biodiesel. Most of the area is supplied by natural gas from Egoli Gas pipelines.

"I think everyone in the next year - let's say 80 percent - will have entry to mid-level solar, and as people have money to upgrade, to completely come off the grid.

"Not everyone has the money to go off the grid. You can spend R5 000 to cut energy use, but we will have 20 packages, all solar, and build on them. We're trying to get the best solution for our residents.

The suburb has set a precedent, by winning its battle with Telkom to get highspeed-fibre to the home broadband.

"We can use our numbers to stand together, to negotiate better deals and rates. A lot of companies are riding the load-shedding wave, ripping people off we can use our numbers to negotiate better deals and rates. As demand for renewable energy solutions shoots up, so will supply, and the prices will come down. We will make it work - and the rest of the country can do the same."

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