Greener, Healthier Energy Options for South Africans

by Tracy Stokes on May 16, 2006

in EcoEnergy, Sustainable Lifestyle

Tumelo Ramolefi is an inner-city hawker in Johannesburg, but what makes him different is that he isn’t selling “smileys” and “runaways” (boiled sheep heads and pigs’ trotters), t-shirts and socks, or even black bags and coathangers. Tumelo’s stall , on a pavement in Joubert Park, is selling innovative renewable-energy gadgets and his gadgets are proving very popular with Jo’burg’s working class.

Mr. Ramolefi’s best-sellers are ethanol gel stoves and lamps, a greener, healthier and safer option than the parrafin and coal that is used by so many of Johannesburg’s people. His ethanol gel products and appliances are supplied by GreenHeat in Durban, who make the stoves and ethanol gel locally. The cost of the stove is R160 (roughly £15) and the lamp is R50 (about £5).

“This stove is number one,” said Maria Ndlela, who works in a recycling centre in Joubert Park and has owned her stove for two months. She says it is easy to use and, while paraffin is cheaper than the gel, the gel is more cost-efficient in the long run. Five litres of gel costs R60 and paraffin costs R21,99 for the same amount. “Gel lasts. If you don’t use it too much, five litres of gel takes you a month to use, but five litres of paraffin lasts only three days.”

Safety is also a big feature of ethanol gel stoves and lamps. The more popularly used paraffin stoves can explode, or be easily knocked over, and cause fires, or cause asphyxiation where there is poor ventilation.

“Coal can actually kill you during the night,” says Ramolefi. “In this coming month, we know people are going to die, but there’s no campaign. Nobody’s saying: ‘Warm-up alive.’”

Ethanol gel burns with a carbon-free flame, and so doesn’t cause respiratory problems, and there is no smoke or smell. It is also non-toxic if swallowed and extinguishes its wick if knocked over, so it’s far more family-friendly.

Gel fuel is a renewable energy form made by mixing ethanol with a thickening agent and water. Ethanol is extracted through the fermentation and distillation of sugars like molasses, sugar cane and sweet sorghum or starch crops, like cassava or “mealies” (maize).

Sales of Tumelo Ramolefi’s stoves and lamps started off slowly, but as word is spreading, business is taking off for him, and more and more Johannesburgers are cooking and heating their homes with safe, green energy.

via: Alternative Energy Blog

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