The future of residential estates

November 14th, 2013, Published in Articles: Energize

Over the past 12 months, business and property developers in the high-income sector (houses priced at over R1-million) have started to leverage existing infrastructure to encourage the use of gas. They have implemented gas-to-power and gas-to-heat technologies respectively to counter the effects of increasing electricity tariffs and uncertainties in security of energy supply with the goal of establishing micro-gas utilities at new housing developments, such as the Waterfall Country Estate, which is based in the north of Johannesburg.

The estate is an example of a liquid petroleum gas (LPG) reticulation initiative where a property developer has partnered with a private gas utility, EnviroFuel, and a technology company, Itron, to distribute LPG to more than 2000 homes. Etienne Mitton, a director at EnviroFuel says that the advantages of the LPG network are that in addition to being an environmentally-friendly green fuel, it offers residents a significant cost saving to their overall energy bills as LPG currently costs about 30% less than electricity.

The estate is the first LPG project of its nature in Johannesburg and more property developers are expected to adopt this as energy prices continue to rise. While LPG prices are linked to oil prices – which have been rising in recent years – they are expected to increase at a much slower rate than national electricity tariffs. As an added bonus, people with gas piped to their homes will be protected to some degree from electricity blackouts. It is estimated that using gas for water heating, cooking and space heating, the demand on household electricity can be reduced by up to 64%. Itron’s smart payment metering solution was selected for the project. These meters are part of a system that includes leak-monitoring and tamper detection.

Mitton admits that there are some barriers to entry in the local gas market, including a lack of infrastructure, high capital costs, environmental concerns relating to shale gas exploration and the lack of a credible and constructive industry development programme supported by the government. Nonetheless, he believes that the long-term sustainability of an estate for both environmental and operating cost reasons will become a key factor in people’s decisions to purchase properties in the future, increasing the long term value of an estate with an LPG network.

Contact Ronel Nel, Itron, Tel 021 928-1765, ronel.nel@itron.com

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