WWF South Africa (WWF-SA) has announced Mellowcabs, Findmyway and Eco MC2 as winners of its 2015 South African Climate Solver Awards, in recognition of innovations that reduce carbon emissions or boost access to energy.
The three startups were recognised at an awards ceremony in Johannesburg, where director of the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies at Stellenbosch University Professor Wikus van Niekerk emphasised the critical role clean technology businesses have to play in driving the transition from a high fossil-fuel economy to one based on clean, renewable energy.
MellowCabs produces fully electric, eco-friendly public transport micro vehicles, Findmyway is a smartphone app to help commuters navigate public transport recently released by startup WhereIsMyTransport, and Eco MC2 is a hydraulic energy storage system produced by Leaper Innovate.
“Climate Solvers was developed to raise awareness for essential technologies like those designed and already commercialised by our winners and to communicate the value of innovation and rapid commercialisation as an immediate and practical solution to climate change,” said WWF International senior advisor on climate innovation Stefan Henningsson.
“South Africa is a nation with a history of strong innovation and entrepreneurship, but shows little support for cleantech innovators compared to many other countries. South Africa risks falling behind in job creation for global solution providers if there is no boost in public and private finance for both mature and early stage cleantech.”
He said there is, however, an increase in the number of creative South African entrepreneurs creating the necessary solutions to combat climate change and energy poverty in the years ahead.
“Attention to the needs of these solution providers by policy makers, investors and corporates is crucial to enable the growth of the clean technology sector and our global effort to disrupt the current high-carbon paradigms,” Henningsson said.
“Part of the goal of Climate Solvers is to give the awarded cleantech companies the best chance of success by giving them the credit they deserve and increasing their national and international profile. They also serve as beacons for inspiration of others, spurring entrepreneurship as well widespread adoption of clean technologies.”
Mellowcabs founder Neil du Preez said transport produces approximately 23 per cent of global CO2 emissions from fuel combustion.
“One of the major impediments to widespread use of public transport in South Africa is the challenge of first and last mile transport, in other words, how does one reach the train station or bus stop from one’s home or workplace? Mellowcabs aims to bridge this gap,” he said.
WhereIsMyTransport co-founder Devin Devries said the mission of Findmyway was to make transport in South Africa more efficient and accessible.
“Not only does the app inform commuters on their travel options, but it also feeds back to transport operators enabling them to improve their services going forward,” he said.
Leaper Innovate founder Warwick Leaper said the major problem with any form of renewable energy has always been storage.
“Batteries have a number of problems; they offer limited storage, contain heavy metals and may contain substances which are limited resources. The Eco MC2 has a 30-year lifespan and far longer storage capacity,” he said.