Monthly Archives: March 2017

SAMSET Releases a New Guide to Clean Energy Transitions for Sub Saharan Municipalities

Simon Batchelor from Gamos writes on the recently-released Guidelines to Clean Energy document for SAMSET.

As a part of our ongoing work with Sub Saharan Municipalities in Uganda and Ghana, the research team have brought together some basic information on clean energy transitions.  “GUIDELINES TO CLEAN ENERGY:- A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR SUB SAHARAN AFRICAN MUNICIPALITIES (2017)”. The Guide is intended to help decision makers in Municipalities in Sub Saharan Africa to consider ways in which they could make their city utilize cleaner energy. Its foreword states “This manual has been designed for use by city officials and planners working in sub-Saharan Africa. It is a practical handbook, which identifies easy to achieve energy interventions that will save money (for cities, businesses and households), promote local economic development, and enhance the sustainable profile of a city. This manual is specifically aimed as a support tool to achieve the implementation of key interventions within municipalities across sub-Saharan Africa.”

The 200 page document starts with a call for cleaner energy. Its opening chapter draws on various sources to show how our ongoing use of fossil fuels is linked to climate change. The historical contribution of Sub Saharan Africa to global climate change is small compared to the developed countries, however over the next 30 years it will increase its contribution particularly if ‘Business as Usual’ is continued. The opening chapters discuss how this global problem is the responsibility of all, and how municipalities could take a decision to move towards clean energy that might contribute to climate change mitigation in the long term.

The guide, however, is titled ‘A Practical Guide’ and we felt it important to move quickly on from the macro picture of global challenges to the specifics of what a municipality might do. Each of the chapters has the same format –

  • An overview, which includes some basic description of technology and social change options;
  • The Case; which discusses how simple changes can make considerable differences
  • Potential for Rollout; discussing the realities of Sub Saharan African life and whether the technology could be introduced
  • Barriers to implementation (and effort to resolve); an attempt to anticipate barriers, and suggestions of what might be done
  • How to go about implementation; some suggestions for action
  • Case Studies; some Sub Saharan African case studies to illustrate the relevance and possibilities of the chapters subject.

Chapter 5 starts with Energy efficient lighting a technology that is relatively easy to implement. LED bulbs have become common and simple action ensuring they are available in the market and ‘encouraged’ among consumers can save significant amount of electricity (compared to older lamps). Chapter 6 broadens the picture to include energy efficient buildings.Ideally these need some design at the very start, but the chapter also makes suggestion for retrofitting that can lower energy consumption. Chapter 7 considers public transport. Vehicles can not only consume considerable amounts of fossil fuel, but create localized pollution. The chapter focuses on the possibilities of public transport as an alternative to everyone getting their own car. Chapter 8 considers cooking. While it may seem that municipalities have little to say about the choice of domestic cooking fuels, the ongoing use of biomass (charcoal) in urban areas contributes to local pollution, kitchen pollution and global pollution. Municipalities can undertake various strategies to assist consumers to move toward genuinely clean cooking.

Waste to energy in Chapter 9 is very much a municipality concern. Collection of waste is a challenge to many SSA municipalities, and the possibility of converting it to useful energy is worth consideration. Chapter 10 talks about Solar Photovoltaics. Solar PV has come down in price considerably over the last few years and this chapter discusses the possibilities – from solar farms contributing to the national grid, to mini and micro grids, to solar home systems.

Renewable purchase agreements are a policy tool that can encourage clean energy. Chapter 11 discusses these, pointing the municipality players to consider the policy instruments available in their country. Chapter 11 touches on carbon trading – this again is effectively a policy instrument that municipalities might consider using. And finally , a last chapter summaries but does not deal in depth, some ideas on Concentrated Solar Power, Wind Power and Solar Water Heaters.

The guide ends with a call to action, to share ideas with colleagues, and to take small steps that help us tread lightly on the earth. “We may have discussed many ideas, technologies, approaches, regulations, policies, feed in tariffs, low energy light bulbs, and energy efficient buildings among others, but ultimately consumption and sustainability come down to you. Humanity has a large footprint on this world and currently we are not treading lightly. We consume; we consume fossil fuel, we create so much impact that our climate is changing, we build cities that can be seen from space; we are heavy on the earth.”

Public Buildings as Beacons of Energy Efficiency: A Key Strategy for Local Governments to Champion Energy Efficiency

Herbert Candia and Alex Ndibwami of Uganda Martyrs University report on a site visit they went to Nairobi with project partners from Kasese municipality.

The goal of the visit was, by visiting two recently completed and published energy efficient buildings, to convince the Mayor, Town Clerk and Site Engineer that it is possible to deliver an energy efficient building today. The buildings included Strathmore Business School at Strathmore University and the UNEP/UNHabitat office facility at the UN Headquarters in Nairobi.

Nairobi’s high solar yield all year round makes solar power the best renewable energy source. Collation: UNEP/UNHABITAT Archive

When speaking about energy efficiency in sub-saharan Africa you would expect that the years that followed for example the construction of the Eastgate building in Harare, Zimbabwe by Mick Pearce would have registered a considerable number of examples local to the region. More often than not as a result, the references we make are a mix of more western attempts the price for which we pay in misplaced parallels.

In Uganda, reference to local attempts is only safely to buildings that were designed and built during the colonial era especially those that have not been ill advisably retrofitted with air conditioning. However, we can proudly acknowledge the fact that one building – the Jinja municipality headquarters stands soundly in its balanced rectilinear form and elegantly in its well-orchestrated fenestration as both light and air grace it efficiently. Of course there are some opportunities yet to be taken advantage of, for example: water harvesting, local waste management and making the most of the outdoors for its environmental and social-cultural potential.

The simple design enables the building to act as a chimney, where warm air is drawn up from ground level and through the office areas, and then escapes beneath the sides of the vaulted roof, maintaining comfortable temperatures in the offices and air circulation throughout the building. Source: UNEP/UNHABITAT Archive

Here we are with two project partners, Jinja and Kasese municipalities: Jinja, that has a 56 year old energy efficient building and Kasese, that is only building theirs today. The task ahead for us is to transform Kasese’s two storey predictably energy inefficient building into an energy efficient one. The bigger challenge presented though is that this building is under construction.  There is no evidence in the drawings that energy efficiency was considered, rather a form that was dictated by key functions the building will accommodate.

Strathmore Business School in Nairobi: The simple design is housed in an elegantly transparent and pragmatically perforated volume with generous overhangs to prevent heat gain while creating semi outdoor spaces that add life to the building. Source: Mwaura Njogu

Unfortunately, it is abundantly clear that there are hardly any recently completed multi storey buildings that demonstrate any energy efficiency let alone any consistent attempt to document where efforts have been made. Indeed, we need more “local” examples of energy efficient buildings whose attempts resonate with our context in order to nurture an attitude of design and construction for energy efficiency. Public buildings can play a leading role and it ought to be a key strategy for municipalities to champion. This can start in exhibiting their headquarters as a local example and later in how the planning approval process is undertaken. This would be a key step in transitioning to a more energy efficient built environment.

Jinja Municipal Headquarters: The simple design of the Jinja municipality headquarters stands soundly in its balanced rectilinear form and elegantly in its well-orchestrated fenestration as both light and air grace it efficiently. Image: A.Ndibwami

Coincidentally, a process is underway in which a building code that will feature energy efficiency is being drafted for Uganda. In order to avoid the historical weaknesses in policy and regulatory frameworks where application and enforcement are weak it is crucial that key players are prepared to implement energy efficiency. Project partners from Kasese have shown eagerness and conveyed a sense of appreciation to have their new building reconfigured for energy efficiency. The visit to Nairobi thus, is one way of exposing key decision makers to the possibilities. We also hope that the design process and the decisions that will contribute to reconfiguring the building for the better will serve as a capacity building exercise. To boost the design process and promote ownership, we will hold a workshop based visit to Kasese to reveal the possibilities while accomodating any feedback leading up to implementation. Inadvertently perhaps, other local governments following our documentation of the process and outcomes will emulate it all.