Kyle Swartz. During the final year of his studies in Environmental & Geographical sciences at the University of the Western Cape, research work for a conference paper on patterns of electricity consumption cemented Kyle’s interest in energy studies.

After graduating in 2014, Kyle was accepted for an internship at the City of Cape Town’s Energy and Climate Change unit, where he further developed his awareness, knowledge and skills around issues of energy, poverty and development. The experience gained here made him well placed to be a worthy recipient of the 2016 DBREV Scholarship to enable him to further his studies in the field of Sustainable Energy.

Settling in well at Stellenbosch University’s Sustainable Energy unit, Kyle is in his element as he gets to grips with various sustainable development and renewable energy subjects. He is particularly interested in renewable energy policy, planning and development, particularly towards decentralised energy systems / grids. He is also excited to be part of the REIPPPP research unit working under Prof Swilling. Here he hopes to learn a lot more about community engagement with regards to implementation of Renewable Energy generation projects. He is looking forward to shaping his Masters thesis around this work.


Kimenthrie Pillay Since completing her MPhil (title) at the University of Cape Town’s Energy Research Centre, Kim has spent a year as intern with the City of Cape Town’s Department of Energy and Climate Change.

Working under Sarah Ward, she was involved in driving new developments in the City’s Low Income Energy Services work. This included working on spatial analysis and technical and financial modelling tools that will help to streamline implementation over the next few years. Of her work here Kim says, ‘I have learnt so much and developed skills I never knew I needed’.

In May 2016, sponsored by DBREV, she attended the International Tech4Dev Conference in Lausanne, Switzerland, where she was accepted to do a poster presentation about her Masters project, ‘Crowd-Sourcing Energy Poverty Data in South African Informal Settlements: The Opportunity of Mobile Phone Technology’.

Her Masters research work is being useful in practical applications, being implemented by the City to investigate the time of use of energy services (both electrical and non-electrical) for low income households, as well as being used for the monitoring and evaluation survey for the ceilings retrofit program.

Even though she has been accepted for a PhD at an Australian university, she has chosen instead to focus on building a new energy consultancy, Thrie Energy Collective, which will be focused on work that improves the sustainability of energy practices, enhances understanding of the needs of communities and advances the potential for technology and development to thrive in Africa.


Sean Kirsten, the 2013 DBREV Scholar, will complete his Masters in Business Science (Economics) in April this year. His research topic explores energy efficiency in low cost houses in the Western Cape, using the community of Mamre as a case study. This involves the compilation of a cost benefit analysis and survey report on the importance of ceilings in low cost houses looking at the health, economic and energy benefits.  This report will hopefully be used by policy makers to advocate for future ceiling retrofit programmes.


For Sean, the DBREV Scholarship has enabled him to link up with academics and professionals in the energy field to gather information and share thoughts. This has been an invaluable experience in shaping, finalising and gathering momentum for his thesis. Having funding has removed financial pressure and allowed him to focus solely on his Masters and allowed him the freedom to work consistently and diligently.


Riaan Opperman, the 2012 DBREV Scholar, completed his M Tech (Eng) at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU). His project involved the development of a Hydrokinetic Coil Pump (HCP) which is a pump powered by flowing water. A test rig was designed and built to identify and analyse factors that would optimise the use of a HCP in rural applications. The potential output of a HCP is sufficient to supply a small rural community with running water

Riaan is currently working as a project engineer at eNtsa, a technology station at NMMU. One of the projects he is involved with is the design of a completely renewable energy powered LED street light with WiFi capabilities. A vertical axis wind turbine and a solar panel will provide the RE power supply to the system.

Riaan is thankful for the support provided by the DBREV Scholarship, as he would otherwise not have been able to complete his studies and consequently not have been able to accept his current position at eNtsa.


Gabrielle (Gaby) Coppez has the distinction of being the first DBREV Scholar. Her 2011 MSc (Eng) was completed at UCT in the Department of Electrical Engineering and entitled ‘Optimal Sizing of Hybrid Renewable Energy Systems for Rural Electrification’. While the thesis looked at problems and challenges facing electricity supply in rural areas of South Africa in particular, Gaby’s object was the creation of a software tool for feasibility assessment that can be used to calculate the size and type of the Hybrid Renewable Energy System (HRES) that is best suited, in view of the energy demands calculated, for a particular rural area.

Gaby writes: “Receiving this scholarship from DBREV was momentous for me. As well as being a great financial help, it introduced me to many people who expanded my vision on rural electrification and what it means in South Africa. The mentors that I had during this time, Wendy Annecke and Dave Gale, were amazing, walking alongside me, asking good questions and being available when I needed them. It really made a big difference to have a group of people that I could call on and discuss things with, who asked hard questions and helped me to focus on, not only the academic side of things, but the real, practical implications of things too. That was really invaluable.

Gabrielle currently lives in Brussels, Belgium, and is working for Pall LifeSciences as an automation engineer, developing and supporting a range of controllers designed for bioreactors used in the Pharmaceutical industry for creating lower cost vaccines. She is still passionate about South Africa and the use of renewable energy and plans to return to South Africa in the coming years and, once again, become involved in this area of work.

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