The world started 2008 with a bang, only to end with a whimper, as the global economy faltered. South Africa escaped the worst of the credit crunch, but had its own problems to contend with: an electricity crisis, increased pressure to go green and an ever-encroaching 2010 FIFA World Cup. We look back at the top ten real economy report stories you found the most interesting this year.
10: SOLAR CAR RACE (RER 36)
We start off with green energy.
At number ten, is a story about Africa's first solar car race, won by a Japanese team from Tokai University. The 4 000 km route took the entrants from Johannesburg to Cape Town, and back to Gauteng, at times facing rather severe weather.
Winning team driver Kenjiro Shinozuka told Engineering News that the local race was particularly tough.
9: SQUARE KILOMETRE ARRAY RADIO TELESCOPE (RER 13)
The Real Economy Report also turned its ears towards the stars this year, telling the story of the Square Kilometre Array, or SKA, radio telescope project, which is currently up for grabs, with South Africa and Australia the only contenders.
The SKA telescope is a 1,5-billion Euro project to create an instrument which will be 50 times more sensitive then any existing radio telescope.
A radio telescope is a form of directional radio antenna used in radio astronomy and in tracking and collecting data from satellites and space probes.
If South Africa wins the bid to host the telescope, it will be based in the Karoo, in the Northern Cape.
The winning bidder will only be announced in 2011.
8. ARCELOR MITTAL SA STEEL OUTPUT (RER 26)
Our eighth most popular Real Economy Report story for 2008 is on Arcelor Mittal South Africa, and how the steel giant was aiming to raise capacity to ten-million tons by 2012.
This was the good old times, though, barely four months ago, when consumers and companies still had money and credit. Now the brownfield expansion of Arcelor Mittal's Newcastle steel mill, in KwaZulu-Natal, has been put on hold, as global steel demand has plummeted.
7. AIRPORTS AND 2010 (RER 28)
The 2010 FIFA World Cup is starting to loom large for those planning for the event, including the Airports Company South Africa, or Acsa, which expects to host 300 000 passengers at the peak of the tournament.
At number seven, is the story of how Acsa plans to deal with the air travel demand of the world's largest sports event. In Germany, the 2006 Soccer World Cup attracted from 5 000 to 6 000 additional flights and, if the same is true for South Africa, Acsa is facing an interesting challenge.
Acsa CEO Monhla Hlahla.
6. BUS RAPID-TRANSPORT SYSTEM (RER 30)
The construction of a new public transport system, in preparation for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, was also big news this year.
The bus rapid-transport system, or BRT system, in Johannesburg, will ferry commuters across the city by July next year. Construction of this system, using dedicated lanes and special-purpose buses and bus stations, located every 500 m along the route, is under way. The ribbon has already been cut on the first station, situated in Joubert park.
5. ELECTRICITY PRICING (RER 20)
Not only was the lack of electricity a hot topic in 2008, but so was the price increases consumers are to face over the next three years as Eskom ramps up its generation capacity, at the cost of more than R400-billion.
When National Energy Regulator of South Africa, or Nersa, announced that electricity tariff increases would jump from the previously announced 14,2% to 27,5%, it was big news on the Real Economy Report. Nersa member Thembani Bukula.
4. SAPPI EXPANSION (RER 21)
At number four, is a story about chemical cellulose, which gives garments its silky look and feel.
Sappi Southern Africa CEO Jan Labuschagne told Engineering News' Terence Creamer that the company's chemical cellulose plant, south of Durban, is being expanded to a 800 000-t/y facility by the middle of next year, at a cost of $460-million.
3. NEW POWER STATION (RER 27)
South Africa will have two new coal-fired power stations by 2013 - which spells an increase in the country's carbon footprint, as Eskom implements some much-needed additional electricity generation capacity.
Our third most popular Real Economy Report story for the year is on the measures being taken to reduce the pollution from one of the two new stations, namely the R80-billion Kusile power station. With 11 of Eskom's 13 coal-fired power stations located in Mpumalanga, air pollution is a problem in this province, and the electricity utility says it will spend R5-billion on flue-gas sulphurisation technology to reduce Kusile's carbon output.
2. GAUTRAIN PROJECT (RER 23)
Our second most watched Real Economy Report story for 2008, was on the unveiling of the first Gautrain train set, in Derby, in the UK.
This story provided the first glimpse at what the trains for the R25-billion rail project, ultimately linking Tshwane, Johannesburg and the OR Tambo International Airport, would look like. The first trains will hit the track in 2010, in time for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
1. ARMOURED VEHICLES (RER 30)
We end with a bang - in every sense of the word. Our most popular Real Economy Story for 2008 was one by Christy van der Merwe, showcasing exactly how tough the RG31 mine protected vehicle, manufactured here in South Africa by BAE Land Systems OMC, is.
The Real Economy Report showed you that the soldier transporter can take the heat. To be more precise, the heat from a 14-kg land mine, proving once again that some of the best things in the world are 'Made in South Africa'.
Here is Bruce Hechter, Land Systems OMC, mine protection specialist.
That's it from this year's Real Economy Report team. Log on next year for more news and updates on the economy, and the best South Africa has to offer in the fields of science and technology.
Credits: Brindaveni Naidoo, Bruce Hayter, Chanel Pringle, Charles Hayter, Christo Greyling, Christy van der Merwe, CorpCinema, Darlene Creamer, Danie de Beer, Dennis Ndaba, Duane Daws, Enver Domingo, Esmarie Swanepoel, Guy Copans, Irma Venter, John Zimmerman, Keith Campbell, Kenneth Creamer, Leandi Cameron, Leonie Vergottini, Lizelle Cronje, Mariaan Webb, Martin Creamer, Michael Nkuna, Reinette Classen, Shane Williams, Shannon O'Donnell, Terence Creamer, Veronica Creamer, Yolande Botes.