Megan Euston-Brown from SEA writes on the importance of considering local government spheres in sustainable energy development in light of the recent UN Sustainable Development Goals 7.
Building an urban energy picture for Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) is a relatively new endeavour, but policy makers would do well to take heed of the work underway . The emerging picture indicates that current levels of energy consumption in the urban areas of SSA is proportionally higher than population and GDP . These areas represent dense nodes of energy consumption. Africa’s population is expected to nearly double from 2010 to 2040 with over 50% of population urbanized by 2040 (AfDB 2011). Thus by 2040 it is likely that well over 50% of the energy consumed in the region will be consumed within urban areas. Strategies to address energy challenges – notably those contained within SDG 7 relating to the efficient deployment of clean energy and energy access for all – must therefore be rooted in an understanding of the end uses of energy in these localities for effective delivery.
Analyses of the end uses of energy consumption in urban SSA generally indicate the overwhelming predominance of the transport sector. Residential and commercial sectors follow as prominent demands. Cooking, water heating, lighting and space cooling are high end use applications. Industrial sector energy consumption is of course critical to the economy, but is generally a relatively small part of the urban energy picture (either through low levels of industrialisation or energy intensive heavy industries lying outside municipal boundaries).
Spatial form and transport infrastructure are strong drivers of urban transport energy demand. Meeting the ‘low carbon’ challenge in SSA will depend on zoning and settlement patterns (functional densities), along with transport infrastructure, that enables, continues to prioritise and greatly improve, public modalities. These approaches will also build greater social inclusion and mobility.
The high share of space heating, ventilation and lighting end uses of total urban energy demand points to the significant role of the built environment in urban end use energy consumption.
These drivers of energy demand are areas that intersect strongly with local government functions and would not be addressed through a traditional supply side energy policy . Understanding the local mandate in this regard will be important in meeting national and global sustainable energy targets.
Urban highway in Ghana. Image: Dennis Mokoala)
The goal of access to modern, safe energy sources is predominantly a national supply-side concern. However, with the growth of decentralised systems (and indeed household or business unit scale systems being increasingly viable) local government may have a growing role in this area. In addition an energy services approach that supplements energy supply with services such as solar water heating, or efficiency technologies (e.g. LED lighting), may draw in local government as the traditionally mandated service delivery locus of government.
An analysis of the mandate of local government with regard to sustainable energy development across Ghana, South Africa and Uganda indicates:
- National constitutional objectives provide a strong mandate for sustainable development, environmental protection and energy access and local government would need to interpret their functions through this constitutional ‘lens’;
- Knowing the impact of a fossil fuel business-as-usual trajectory on local and global environments, local government would be constitutionally obliged to undertake their activities in a manner that supports a move towards a lower carbon energy future;
- Infrastructure and service delivery would need to support the national commitments to energy access for all;
- Decentralisation of powers and functions to local government is a principle across the three countries reviewed, but the degree of devolution of powers differs and will affect the ability of local government to proactively engage in new approaches;
- Existing functional areas where local government may have a strong influence in supporting national and global SDG 7 (sustainable energy) targets include: municipal facilities and operations, basic services (water, sanitation, and in some instances energy/electricity) and service infrastructure, land use planning (zoning and development planning approval processes), urban roads and public transport services and building control.
- Where local government has a strong service delivery function it is well placed to be a site of delivery for household energy services and to play a role in facilitating embedded generation. New technologies may mean that smaller, decentralised electricity systems offer greater resilience and cost effectiveness over large systems in the face of rapid demand growth. These emerging areas will require policy development and support.
In practice the ability of local government to respond to these mandates is constrained by the slow or partial implementation of administrative and fiscal decentralisation in the region. Political support of longer-term sustainable urban development pathways is vital. Experience in South Africa suggests that the process is dynamic and iterative: as experience, knowledge and capacity develops locally in relation to sustainable energy functions, so the national policy arena begins to engage with this. Thus, while international programmes and national policy would do well to engage local government towards meeting SDG 7, local government also needs to proactively build its own capacity to step into the space.
 In South Africa this work has been underway since 2003; SAMSET is pioneering such work in Ghana and in Uganda and the World Bank’s ESMAP has explored this area in Ghana, Ethiopia and Kenya. SAMSET is also undertaking a continent-wide urban energy futures model.
 Working Paper: An exploration of the sustainable energy mandate at the local government level in Sub-Saharan Africa, with a focus on Ghana, South Africa and Uganda. Euston-Brown, Bawakyillenuo, Ndiwambi and Agbelie (2015).
 Noting that not all drivers of energy demand intersect with local government functions, for example, increasing income will drive a shift to energy intensive private transport; and that population and economic growth will always be the overarching drivers of demand.