Category Archives: UCL – Energy Institute

Kampala CPD Course Plenary Sessions and Group Work – Days 2 – 5

The SAMSET Project hosted a continuing professional development course at Victoria University in Kampala, Uganda from the 7th – 11th November 2016. As shown in the previous post, the urban energy management issues present today in Kampala make the city an appropriate place to discuss the future of sustainable urban energy transitions.

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The Hon. Dr Chris Baryomunsi, Minister of State for Housing, addressing the opening of the CPD Course. Image: Daniel Kerr

The course was opened with an address from the Hon. Dr Chris Baryomunsi, who gave an address on the overarching issues facing urban Kampala today, include economic growth, population growth and land management. The first plenary day of the course focused on resource efficiency in energy planning and management in the urban sphere. The presentations on this day focused on the mandate that municipal officials have in the energy space (or lack thereof) and a focused discussion on the importance of data in energy planning, as well as case studies of successful initiatives in other Sub-Saharan African cities and the challenges they faced. The city of Cape Town was presented as a successful sustainable transitions case study, with the presentation from Sumaya Mohamed from the City of Cape Town Energy Authority detailing a number of the successful interventions the city has implemented, including electrification of “backyarder” properties and the development of the metropolitan bus transit system. The place of data was also highlighted through Adrian Stone from Sustainable Energy Africa’s exercise, encouraging participants to analyse and discuss data from a recent Jinja state of energy survey themselves.

The second day of the course focused on participation and key stakeholders in energy management, and methods to identify the stakeholders through network mapping, as well as to what extent these stakeholders and able (or willing) to advocate for energy transitions. Presentations on this day focused on the realities of bringing sustainable planning into action, whilst managing competing demands, with experiences and cases from the SAMSET Ghanaian partner municipalities, Awutu Senya East and Ga East, as well as from the Ugandan partner municipalities Jinja and Kasese. The closing keynote was presented by David Kasimbazi, head of the Centre for Urban Governance and Development at Victoria University, on the definitions of governance and good governance, and how this affects sustainable energy transitions in cities.

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Urban energy budgetary planning group session, led by Gamos. Image: Daniel Kerr

The third day of the course focused on the place that policy and regulatory frameworks can have in sustainable urban energy transitions. Presentations focused both on high-level policy and regulatory mechanisms, as well as technology-specific interventions in the urban sphere. The morning presentation from Vincent Agaba of the Real Estate Agents of Uganda was particularly relevant, in offering a property developer’s perspective in the sustainable transitions space, and the definitions of enabling environments in the space for developers. The afternoon saw Simon Batchelor from Gamos conduct a Netmapping exercise, a tool which the organisation has developed over many years, to identify the key stakeholders in the urban energy space, both in the partner municipalities outside Uganda and in Jinja and Kasese, as well as within the city

Day four of the course was centred around the theme of “Build(ing) Resilience”, with presentations focusing on designing and building with people, as well as ensuring resilience in design and sustainability. Key themes covered in the presentations included environmentally conscious design, with cases from local as well as international buildings, presented by Mark Olweny of Uganda Martyrs University, as well as innovative outreach initiatives for building support for sustainable energy transitions, and the use of the tourism sector as a driver of sustainable transitions, presented by Herbert Candia of Uganda Martyrs University.

The SAMSET Project will be hosting a third and final CPD course in Accra, Ghana from the 26th – 30th June 2017. More information on the course will be available both on this blog, as well as the project website, and the project Twitter.

Daniel Kerr, UCL Energy Institute

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Continuing Professional Development Course – Kampala, Uganda 7-11 November 2016 – Fieldwork

The SAMSET Project hosted its second continuing professional development course at Victoria University in Kampala, Uganda from the 7th – 11th November 2016. The title of the course was “A Practitioner’s Insight into Urban Energy Planning, Implementation and Management”, and aimed to cover the issues that practitioners (such as urban planners, architects and municipal government officials) face when addressing urban energy management.

The first day of the course was focused on fieldwork in and around Kampala, aiming to give attendees experience of the issues facing Kampala in the urban energy and sustainable energy spheres today. The first part of the fieldwork focused on the central market district in Kampala, and involved a walking tour led by local partners through the market area and central business district of the city.

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Part of the central market district in Kampala. Image: Daniel Kerr

To say that the market area in Kampala is busy is an understatement. Passage through the area is only really possible on foot in some places, and even then only when avoiding the constant movement of goods and people through the narrow streets of the market district. The main roads in the area are extremely busy, with heavy goods vehicles mixing with matuba taxis and boda-bodas (motorcycle taxis) to create effective gridlock at some points in the day. The sustainable energy market, however, was on show in many areas, whether that be hole-in-the-wall shops selling small solar home systems, to street vendors selling improved cookstoves and cookstove liners. The challenges to urban transport were clear to see in the area, particularly how best to facilitate the movement of goods and people in the centre of the city, without stifling the bustling engine of economic growth that the central market district provides to the city.

The second phase of the CPD course fieldtrip involved a visit to a local landfill site on the outskirts of Kampala. This site processed a significant amount of the solid waste in the city, including from official waste management collection services and informal networks of waste collectors. The site also supports a network of informal waste pickers and processors, collecting items such as plastic waste for recycling. A recent initiative at the landfill has seen a PTFE processing facility constructed through collaboration with Chinese investors, although this site has not been without issues. In particular, while investment in the processing facility has created employment at the site, redistribution of profits from the facility has not occurred, with very little being reinvested in the site or community of waste pickers servicing it.

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Landfill site in Kampala, Uganda. Image: Daniel Kerr

The issues facing solid waste management in large, primary cities such as Kampala are myriad, and the effects of this were plain to see in this phase of the trip. Collection and processing, as well as sustainability in operations, are both issues that need to be addressed by urban planners when considering municipal waste issues.

Daniel Kerr, UCL Energy Institute

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and Town Planning

Bernard Tembo from UCL writes on the benefits of bus rapid transit (BRT) systems and their integration into new urban planning ventures.

In our last article, Africities, 2063, and Time, Simon Batchelor and Sumaya Mahomed looked at the disjoint in project timescales used by donors, CSOs etc. and the municipalities. They elaborated the complexity process and stages that projects have to go through for them to see light of day, stating that instead of the commonly used timescales of 1-3 years, most municipalities’ projects have a longer timescale of between 10 to 30 years. This article gives an observer perspective on how town planning approvals and the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems in South African cities link.

Major South African municipalities have embarked on projects that will not only improve the efficiency of the transport network but also reduce emissions from the transport system. Municipalities such as Durban, Polokwane, Johannesburg and Cape Town are implementing BRT projects.

In Polokwane for instance, this project targets the areas that are densely populated. These area is currently serviced an inefficient public transport network and private transport. The City experiences loss of man-hours during peak time because of traffic jams. The City therefore, hopes that by providing a safe, reliable and efficient public transport network, the citizens’ social and economic livelihood could be improved.

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SAMSET team members and bus rapid transit lanes on a highway in Polokwane, South Africa. Image: Hlengiwe Radebe, SEA

The City of Cape Town on the other hand has an already functioning BRT system, not covering the whole City though. One of the objectives of this system is to encourage modal shift: from private to public transport system. In one section of Cape Town called the Northern Suburbs, there a new shopping mall called Bayside Mall. This mall is serviced by a well-functioning BRT system. However, despite availability of this functional public transport system, the shopping mall has a huge private car parking space (lot).

This raises questions about how well coordinated internal City development approvals and plans are: on one hand you want to encourage use of public transport yet on the other incentivising private transport system. It is an established fact that building infrastructure such as malls have a long life span (more than 40 years). And secondly and perhaps more importantly that because without putting in place stringent measures, private transport will continue to grow in the City. As private transport offers better safety and convenience for the user. Apart for convenience and safety, private transport is perspective as a symbol of esteemed status. With an increasing middle‑class, most transport users particularly those with enough disposal increase to shop in places like Bayside Mall will most likely desire to use private transport.

It would therefore be important that the City authorities relook at requirements for new developments before they approve building plans. One such requirement would be size customer parking space in shopping malls. I am aware that they are a lot of power and political games at play with such developments (shopping malls that is) but there is always a first.

This is an interesting challenge of synchronising long term plans with short term desires. A challenge that cannot be solved using a one size fits all approach, it requires consented efforts from all stakeholders.

Waste-to-energy paradigm: Opportunities for African cities to transform their energy landscapes

Xavier Lemaire from UCL and Simon Bawakyillenuo & Innocent Agbelie from the University of Ghana ISSER recently collaborated on this post for the UrbanAfrica.net website. The original post can be found at: http://www.urbanafrica.net/urban-voices/waste-to-energy-african-cities-can-transform-their-energy-landscapes/, reproduced in full below.

 

The critical issue of waste management

Waste management is a critical issue for most African cities as a result of the huge generation of mountains of waste stemming from increases in urban populations over the last few decades, coupled with access to consumer goods by a fast-growing middle class. And waste generation is expected to increase rapidly in the future. City authorities are therefore faced with the challenge of managing urban waste with limited resources at their disposal.

The extent of this challenge is made clear by an Africa Review Report on Waste Management in African cities, which notes that less than half of waste is being collected, the rest being dumped in the urban landscape [1]. Accra alone generates approximately 1000 tonnes of waste per day at an annual generation rate of 3.7×104 Tons/year while the existing collection capacity can only keep up with about 55% of this amount (Fobil (2000). This means that an excess of 1.7×104 Tons/year is left to accumulate in the core areas of the city for several months [2]. In the wake of this finding, Obour (2012) described the city of Accra as almost engulfed in filth [3].

Unsustainable waste management has adverse consequences on the environment including the breeding of mosquito and related diseases, emission of obnoxious odours and methane, and flooding through choked drainage systems [4]. These waste-related problems are not uncommon in most African cities and city authorities are seeking sustainable waste-management solutions. Indeed, unraveling sustainable solutions for efficient waste management is one of the top priorities of the two municipalities in Ghana that are partners to the “Supporting Sub-Saharan Africa’s Municipalities with Sustainable Energy Transitions (SAMSET)” project.

 

Sustainable waste management practices

The most sustainable waste management practices are waste reduction and waste recycling as shown in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1:  Hierarchy of sustainable waste management

samset blog waste management img 1

Source: Adapted from Rodriguez, 2011.

Effective waste recycling ultimately leads to waste reduction. It is possible to recycle completely a waste product only when the production and marketing processes themselves have integrated the target of 100% recycling as the ultimate goal of the design of the value chain, making it possible to generate money from the recycling activity itself (and allowing the recycling activity not just being an end of chain cost).

In most African cities, little is done and far little is happening currently in the areas of waste reduction and waste recycling as waste management practices. Sadly, waste management practices in Africa can be placed in the first and second rungs from the bottom of the hierarchy of sustainable waste management (Figure 1). It has to be noted that, another waste management practice that is common in African cities is composting, that is, turning the by-products of organic waste into manure for agricultural activities. Most companies that have taken such initiatives have quit in many countries due to low patronage of such compost products. It is, however, flourishing in other countries such as Uganda and parts of South Africa, like Cape Town.

 

Opportunities and potentials for waste-to-energy in African Cities

Using waste to create energy is a viable option for most African cities. Waste can be incinerated to produce heat or electricity; and methane can be collected from landfills and be used to, again, generate heat or electricity.

There is high level of organic content of waste generated in most African cities. In Ghana, for example, about 66% of the total waste generated is organic, as shown in Figure 2 below.

Figure 2: Waste type and composition in Ghana

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Source: Zoomlion Ghana Limited (2013).

Any organic waste from urban and rural areas as well as industries is a resource due to its ability to degrade and release methane, which can be used for energy generation. The problems caused by solid and liquid wastes can be significantly mitigated through the adoption of environmentally-friendly waste-to-energy technologies that will allow treatment and processing of wastes before their disposal.

Waste-to-energy is a win-win endeavour. As a sustainable waste management system it produces energy that can be sold for economic gains for the producer. It also provides green jobs. While it is thought that such projects are highly technical and often require imported skilled labour and technology from developed countries, local people, especially “waste scavengers,” can be employed and use their skills. It seems unlikely that municipalities themselves or international corporations can deal with waste. Involving local entrepreneurs in the process is fundamental [5] and can be extended to entrepreneurs from informal settlements [6].

Most cities in Africa already use landfill waste disposal systems. City-owned vehicles, such as trucks, can be used for waste-to-energy projects to cut costs. The problem in most African cities, however, is waste sorting. Waste is often not sorted at the collection points hence all kinds of waste end up at the depositing site. Tying economic benefits to sorting of waste at the households level and effective education of the general public on the need for proper waste sorting can help the course of waste-to-energy in most African cities.

 

Prospects for waste-to-energy in Africa

All landfills generate methane, so there are many opportunities to reduce methane emissions by flaring or collecting methane for energy generation. As mentioned previously, there are two main technological options to transform waste into energy, both of which can be used to create heat or electricity: incineration or collection of methane. Often proposed by Western companies, the incineration technology can be quite costly to build, relies on imported technologies, and requires the collection of huge amount of waste from vast catchment areas. Huge catchments areas imply that there will be high costs related to logistics, while fleets of trucks could contribute to road congestion.

Production of energy from landfill requires certain technical skills, which can only be acquired through training and experience. Methane is a potent heat-trapping gas (more than 20 times stronger than carbon dioxide) and has a short atmospheric life (10 to 14 years) [7]. Therefore, reducing methane emissions from municipal solid waste landfills through a Landfill Gas project is one of the sustainable means to lessen the human impact on global climate change. In addition, a Landfill Gas project, during its operational lifetime, will capture an estimated 60 to 90 percent of the methane created by a landfill, depending on system design and effectiveness. The methane captured is converted to water and carbon dioxide when the gas is burned to produce electricity or heat.

Unfortunately, there is no one best technological fixed solution. Each municipality has to find a specific mix of options, combining the appropriate technologies with existing social agencies to be able to tackle progressively – after a series of trials, successes and errors – this problem. Indeed, there have been many trials and failed waste to energy projects in Africa. That notwithstanding, many opinion groups, private organisations, international organisations and governments in most African countries are still enthusiastic about sustainable waste management practices.

It is therefore imperative for city authorities to make strategic choices about the types of socio-technical solutions that can be implemented realistically, taking into account their financial and social long-term sustainability. This is to avoid repeats of failure of waste-to-energy projects funded by international organisations in Africa. Suffice to mention that waste management is a complex issue that must involve contributions from a variety of stakeholders from local communities to policy-makers including industries and farmers for success to prevail.

Key among the ways African cities can transform their energy landscape through waste-to-energy is political and institutional commitment. It is encouraging to note that in recent times a lot of governments in Africa are gradually embracing the Green Growth development pathway, with some having already mainstreamed Green Economy actions in their national development plans. These steps give signal great prospects for waste-to-energy development in Africa because Green Growth developmental actions entail foster economic, social and environmental development. Thus, in the not too distant future, it is envisaged that a wave of different waste-to-energy projects could spring up across African cities when emphasis is not only placed on the cost component of waste-to-energy, but both the environment and social benefits as well.

 

References

[1] Sixth Session of the Food Security and Sustainable Development. Africa Review Report on Waste Management – Main report, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 27-30 October 2009.  http://www.uneca.org/publications/africa-review-report-waste-management-main-report

[2] Fobil, J. N. (2002). Proceedings of International Symposium on Environmental Pollution Control and Waste Management 7-10 January 2002, Tunis (EPCOWM’2002), p.193-205.

[3] Obour, S.K. (2012). “Accra Sinks under Filth”. The Mirror, Saturday, September 15, 2012, pp.24.

[4] Dr Simon Bawakyillenuo and Innocent Komla Agbelie, Waste as a Resource for Energy Generation in the Ga East and Awutu Senya  East Municipalities: the Policy Discourse. University of Ghana, SAMSET project, 2014, http://samsetproject.site11.com/outputs/

[5] Un-Habitat, Note on Urbanisation Challenges, Waste Management, and Development, 12-14 February 2014, Mauritius. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/intcoop/acp/2014_mauritius/pdf/un_habitat_presentation_en.pdf

[6] Towards social inclusion and protection of informal waste pickers and recyclers – waste collection project proposal for and professional support provided to small entrepreneurs by the eThewini municipality. ENDA – IWPAR Best practices #9 www.iwpar.org

[7] Landfill Gas Energy Basics. Available at: http://www.epa.gov/methane/lmop/documents/pdfs/pdh_chapter1.pdf

Informal settlements: to electrify or not?

Xavier Lemaire recently wrote a guest blog for UrbanAfrica.net representing the SAMSET projcet research. The blog is reproduced here in its entirety.

Informal settlements constitute a major part of African cities: more than two thirds of the urban population of sub-Saharan Africa lives in slums. In spite of evidence to the contrary, such settlements are typically considered temporary aberrations by governments and are not recognised as permanent features of the urban landscape. As a result the needs of their inhabitants tend to be ignored by urban policy-makers.

This is notably the case when it comes to the electrification of informal settlements, which are seldom included in electrification efforts. The attitude of electricity utilities and municipal electricity distributors to the inevitable flourishing of “illegal” connections in these areas is at best to ignore them, or, when the situation deteriorates too much, to engage in repressive measures, such as disconnections, harassment, fines and/or imprisonment for what is considered as electricity theft.

Some authorities still take refuge behind electricity industry norms and spatial planning schemes that are rooted in the colonial era and designed to favour the wealthy, effectively denying the poorest rights to such services.

Municipalities and utilities do not want to legitimise informal settlements by electrifying these ‘illegal’ structures. They also do not want to risk increasing a low-income customer base who are expected to be unreliable payers. Furthermore, they do not want to electrify areas where there are higher technical risks and safety concerns for which they could be held responsible.

The situation leaves few alternatives for informal settlement inhabitants: to move (where?), to remain without modern energy, or to establish electricity connections themselves. In the human endeavour to improve their living conditions, it is not surprising that the latter option prevails. Even if most inhabitants can afford to pay for their connection and have demonstrated a willingness to pay, the authorities do not electrify such areas as a rule, and thus residents are pushed into illegality in their attempts to improve their welfare.

The proliferation of illegal connections comes with numerous problems, such as greater safety and fire hazard risks linked to sub-standard connections, overload of networks, loss of revenue for utilities (so called ‘non-technical’ losses), and economic exploitation of the poorest by informal resellers of electricity, who may charge more than double the official electricity price. By denying access to electricity in informal settlements, utilities create situations where both the welfare of citizens and the effective functioning of the utility are compromised.

The attitude of municipalities and utilities to informal settlement electrification has been demonstrated to be unnecessary and far too conservative in places where informal electrification has been pursued. Where countries have adopted a more flexible, appropriate approach to this dilemma there have been significant benefits for both residents and utilities.

The case of Cape Town

After the end of apartheid, South African municipal electricity distributors and the national utility Eskom developed innovative approaches to low-income household electrification, which they extended to informal settlements over time. Cape Town municipality has been one of the pioneers in this field.

Key aspects of the approach used by the Cape Town municipal distributor are as follows:

First, it demarcates areas where electrification is materially possible from those where it is not feasible, by adopting broad criteria which include a maximum of inhabitants. While the dense configuration of many settlements can indeed restrict access by electrification vehicles and equipment, with aerial electrification most parts of a settlement can be reached. However settlements on privately-owned land are not electrified, as the law prevents municipalities from installing assets on such land. Floodplains are still categorised as unsuitable for electrification, although some experts consider that these areas can be electrified as long the network is kept out of reach of water and disconnection points enable operators to isolate specific areas when flooding occurs.

Secondly, appropriate electrification technologies are used which enable all households to be reached, such as the ‘maypole’ approach (as the name suggests, houses are connected from a central pole in a radial ‘maypole’ fashion), and external pole-mounted meters are used which communicate with in-house displays, making it easy for officials to disconnect, check for faults and identify tampering. These innovative technologies and approaches have been important enablers to informal area electrification, as they have proven themselves to be safe and cost-effective.

Thirdly, tariffs have been adapted for this context, with small connection fees which are not collected up-front but paid over an extended time, and pre-paid-meters both protecting the utility revenue as well as enabling low-income households to purchase small amounts to suit their pocket, as the poor often have a variable income.

Fourth, local communities are engaged with extensively during the electrification planning and implementation process. This engagement goes beyond a superficial survey and implies time and effort from the utility to identify concerns and interact on a regular basis with the community-chosen representatives, as well as directly with the inhabitants to be electrified.

This integrated approach to informal settlement electrification has spread access to electricity to almost all households in Cape Town, with associated welfare benefits for its citizens. Using technologies, standards and approaches imported from the developed world, as was done initially in South Africa, would have constrained such access significantly.

One of the surveys conducted within the Supporting African Municipalities with Sustainable Energy Transition (SAMSET) project, as part of research running into 2017, compares the approach taken in the six municipal partners of the project to see how best practices could be replicated in other African municipalities.

 

Xavier Lemaire is Senior Research Associate at the University College London – Energy Institute. He is co-leader of the SAMSET (Supporting African Municipalities in Sustainable Energy Transitions) project. A sociologist and socio-economist, his research interests focus on clean energy policies, energy transition and energy access in the Global South. Contact: x.lemaire@ucl.ac.uk

 

 

References

Informal Electrification in South Africa: Experiences, Opportunities and Challenges, 2012. Sustainable Energy Africa, Cape Town. Available at: http://www.cityenergy.org.za/uploads/resource_116.pdf

Policy guidelines for the Electrification of Un-proclaimed Areas, DoE South Africa. Available at: http://www.energy.gov.za/files/policies/electrification/unproclaimed%20areas%20policy%202011.12.pdf

Prosperity in a Rapidly Urbanising World; Where Do We Go From Here?

Xavier Lemaire and Daniel Kerr from UCL recently attended a talk entitled “Prosperity in a rapidly urbanising world; Where do we go from here?” given at UCL by Dr Julio Davlia from the Institute of Global Prosperity at UCL’s Development Planning Unit. The talk was focused around the challenge of improving prosperity and economic development in the developing world whilst facing the constraints, challenges and opportunities of a rapidly urbanising world.

The presentation began with an investigation of the causes of modern urbanisation in a sociological sense (in terms of modernisation theory), and also from the point of view of development economics, including the Harris-Todaro model of rural-urban migration, and examining the pull and push factors that affect developing countries (for example, greater employment opportunities and higher wages in cities compared to rural areas).

Dr Davila went on to highlight a number of correlations in the field of urbanisation and prosperity. Strong positive correlations exist between the proportion of population urbanised in an economy and GDP per capita in the country, as well as with life expectancy, rising with the urbanisation rate. Strong negative correlations also exist with child mortality and urbanisation. However, an interesting implication particularly for municipal governments is that tax revenue as a percentage of GDP offers no correlation with an increasing urbanised population. Instead, recovery rates are mostly flat as urbanisation increases. This has significant impacts for municipal governments: with rising urban populations and a flat tax revenue growth rate, the provision of urban services will become more difficult.

A common case study in urbanisation and development is that of Medellin, Colombia. The municipal government of Medellin pursued an innovative approach to the growing urbanisation and pressure on urban services in the city, pursuing formalisation activities contra to new builds and relocation. Space upgrades and the maintaining of the social fabric that had arisen in the cities contributed to a sustainable urbanisation for the city. Mass transit and public rapid transit have been focuses of the municipal government, for example in the construction of escalators between the hillside formerly-informal settlements and the central business district. The formalisation activities have also greatly helped with public buy-in, and public support for the government’s schemes is high.

Medellin, Colombia Escalators

Medellin, Colombia: Escalators from Communa 13 to the CBD – image: wnyc.com

Finally, Dr Davlia returned to the issue of municipal revenue streams and the problem of low taxation returns. Control over local levels of taxation for municipal governments is a key factor for sustainable urban development, and the issue of slipping taxation revenues leading to a downward spiral of non-payment and service degradation has been touched on before in this blog. With the ability to properly target taxation to achieve the municipal government’s social and developmental goals, this spiral can be avoided, and service delivery can improve.

Cape Town Electricity Department Meeting – 11th November 2014

Xavier Lemaire and Daniel Kerr from UCL, and Yachika Reddy from SEA, recently met with Maurisha Hammer and Zwelethu Zulu, representatives from the Cape Town Municipal Electricity Department’s Electrification Division, to discuss the city’s approach to the electrification of informal settlements, and the challenges facing informal settlement electrification across South Africa.

The Cape Town approach to informal settlement electrification is pioneering compared to the approaches of other countries and metropolitan areas. Informal settlement electrification is under a separate project management procedure to that of formal settlement electrification in the municipality. Formal settlements are project managed by developers, housing associations and “Section 21” companies, which are non-profit housing project developers. Informal settlement electrification is directly project-managed by the Electrification Department, and projects are selected in-situ, i.e. any existing informal settlement has the potential to be electrified under the Council approved Residential Electricity Reticulation policy that requires that  it is a stable settlement (i.e. not transient) and has not been identified for upgrading or relocation . To be considered for electrification, an informal settlement may not be situated

  • in a road or rail reserve or in a servitude, unless otherwise permitted by land owner;
  • in an area below the 1:50 year flood return period contour;
  • in a storm water detention pond; or
  • on unstable land.

This approach is in contrast to other countries’ and cities’ experiences with informal settlement electrification. For example, while cases exist for “slum” electrification in India (notably Chennai and Mumbai) and Thailand (Bangkok), these are processes dependant on the formalisation of property rights for informal dwellers. Part of the rationale behind the Cape Town approach is to do with the constitutional mandate for municipalities in South Africa to provide basic municipal services (electricity, water, sanitation, and refuse management) to all inhabitants of the municipality. Whilst funding constraints prevent the fulfilment of this mandate in many municipalities, Cape Town seems to be succeeding in doing so through this program.

Another major contributor to the success of the program is the community engagement aspect of informal settlement operations. Repeated meetings with community leaders, and notably members of the community themselves, throughout the duration of an electrification project, significantly contribute to investment and participation of the community in the project, nurturing trust in the services and engendering community spirit, cutting down on electricity theft and grid overloading. The opportunity is also used to get cooperation from the community to open up access ways in densely populated areas, not only to facilitate the installation of an electricity reticulation network but also to be maintained as access ways for health emergency services as well as the provision of other basic services such as water and sanitation where possible

The electrification of informal dwellings in the backyards of formal housing developments is a recent initiative. Two pilot projects have been successfully completed in what many regard as a first-of-its-kind program. The main challenge with these projects is the reinforcement of the existing reticulation network serving these properties. In most cases the additional load posed by backyard dwellings makes it necessary to replace the backbone infrastructure. At this stage the programme is restricted to backyard dwellings on properties owned by the City (rental housing) due to legal restrictions around enhancing private properties with public funds.

South African municipalities generate significant income from electricity distribution, and are responsible under their mandate to electrify urban areas, with rural areas under the jurisdiction of ESKOM, the national utility. Given the low rates of return for informal settlement electrification, for less affluent South African municipalities, replicating the Cape Town experience may prove challenging. While the electrification of informal settlements and backyard dwellings may not make financial sense if viewed with too narrow a perspective, the City emphasises wider benefits such as better living conditions, economic stimulation, health and safety, job creation and education opportunities. In view of the challenges faced with the delivery of free formal housing due to growing demand faced with urbanisation and historic spatial planning legacies amongst others in formal housing, informal housing has an important interim role to play and will not disappear overnight. It is with this knowledge that the City Of Cape Town decided more than a decade ago to provide electricity to those living in informal settlements.

In all, the Cape Town experience in informal electrification has useful implications for the SAMSET project. The management of informal electrification projects by the municipality has served to mitigate a number of risks inherent in informal settlement electrification, and this experience -under a number of conditions – could be cross-applied to great effect in other metropolitan areas in developing countries globally, particularly in the Sub-Saharan African context.