Perlman: We spoke a while back about biotechnology hubs, I believe there are some new developments, but this time in the area of research.
Creamer: Yes, biotechnology is still looming quite large on the science and technology horizon of South Africa. South Africans are gearing up to spend something like R2,5-billion in the next three years on local biotechnology research. The bulk of that will come from government-owned institutions, about R1-billion of that; the government itself, through the Science and Technology Department, is putting in R500-million over the next three years, and the private-sector coming in with more than R800-million. So, it is about two thirds government and government institutions and a third private-sector, into research. We've already seen the creation of several biotechnology hubs. These are the biotechnology regional innovation centres. We have got three of those, one in Gauteng, one in the Western Cape and one covering the East Coast. South Africa is also getting international recognition for its efforts in biotechnology, having set-up its strategies long ago, in 2001. You will see that International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology has chosen South Africa as the place where it will put its third big research laboratory. It only has two of these laboratories in the world and it is a 71-country initiative. It has one in India and one in Italy and now it will have one in the Western Cape. The first phase of that will be up and running by June this year and then they are looking at the further phases being quite elaborate.
Perlman: Some news on the Gautrain.
Creamer: We talk of 10 stations for this R25-billion project, the rapid-rail Gautrain project. We thought that it was cast in stone as an initial 10-station network, but now an 11th station is being considered, and this would be between the OR Tambo Airport and Sandton, at Modderfontein. This has arisen out of a court case, the AECI landowner took the Gauteng Provincial Government to court, but settled out of court in a win-win situation, both of them rather happy about the outcome, which involves giving consideration to the creation of an 11th station, at Modderfontein, which forms part of a very rich vein on the 80 km route. AECI owns a lot of property there and 9 km to 11 km of that rail will go through AECI property. AECI will use the compensation that it gets for its land to put seven bridges over the railline in order to create an intergraded development in what could have been a divisive one and both company and province are hoping to agree a final plan before the end of the first quarter of this year.
Perlman: Martin, we are largely a coal-powered country, but some developments in hydro-electricity, interestingly enough in the Free State, but also a commercial operation.
Creamer: The words commercial, independent and electricity-from-water, are important words, but even more important are the words that construction has begun. We would like to hear construction has begun on a lot of our projects, but some of them remain talk for far too long. So construction is under way on South Africa's first independent commercial electricity-from-water project. This is the result of the private sector seeing an opportunity to generate electricity from the fast-running river water between Clarens and Bethlehem, and to create a hydropower project, of which South Africa has very few. Look at the benefits: 11 000 low-income households will be able to receive electricity at no extra price. They are going to sell that electricity at the exact same price at which Eskom sells it to the Bethlehem local authority and they are also going to earn themselves quite a few carbon-credits for conformance to Kyoto Protocol rules. Also, they will start meeting South Africa's commitment towards renewable, emission-free energy. We might say it is only 7 MW, which is minuscule in terms of 40 000 MW of capacity that South Africa has, but it is big in concept and we see it fitting into new-world thinking. The 7 MW will come at a cost of R67-million, loan finance being provided by the State-owned Central Energy Fund and also Development Bank of Southern Africa. The private-sector company involved is Nu Planet, which will be receiving 25 % of its revenue by selling carbon credits to a Norwegian company.
Perlman: We started off at the laboratories, went down the rapid-rail track and all the way hydropower in the Free State. Always an interesting journey with Martin Creamer. Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly, he'll be back with us at the same time next week.
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