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.
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.
This is a joint blog by Simon Batchelor from Gamos and Sumaya Mahomed, Professional Officer in Renewable and Energy Efficiency in the Cape Town Municipality.
At the recent Africities conference, some of the SAMSET researchers had a conversation with municipal partners, and this article tries to capture its essence. Their subject – timescales.
In the development sector, donors, civil society, NGOs, researchers, all tend to speak in terms of 1 to 3 years projects. While the planning processes of logical frameworks and business cases allows for an impact after the project end, there are few agencies willing to commit to more than 3 years. SAMSET is actually a four year project and in that sense quite rare. Most of the other USES projects were 1 to 3 years. Yet within SAMSET is the aspiration to assist our partner municipalities to gather data, create a state of energy report, to model the future (based on that data), to take decisions and create a strategy for ‘energy transitions’. And, within the timeframe of the project, to take some first steps in that strategy, some actions.
In a slight contrast to this, Africities has as its slogan – “SHAPING THE FUTURE OF AFRICA WITH THE PEOPLE: THE CONTRIBUTION OF AFRICAN LOCAL AUTHORITIES TO AGENDA 2063 OF THE AFRICAN UNION.”. It is looking at 2063! That is (nearly) a fifty year horizon. Africities knows that municipal planning, changes in infrastructure, raising the finance for those changes, takes decades not years.
SAMSET is funded by UK donors and some of the researchers come from the UK, so lets take the London Cross rail link as an example. First of all, lets remember that the essence of London Underground – the transport system that effectively keeps London working – that the essence was established in 1863 (The Metropolitan Railway, using gas-lit wooden carriages hauled by steam locomotives!). That’s nearly one hundred and fifty years ago. The cross link is a new tunnel that will join east London (the banking and business hub) to west London, and beyond. This tunnel has to go ‘in a straight line’ while at the same time missing existing underground tunnels, water mains, etc. At times it will be created just 1 metre from an existing underground structure.
So its perhaps surprising that it was apparently first mentioned in 1941, was written on a plan in 1943, serious consultations in the seventies, serious proposals in the nineties, commercial proposal in 2001, and decided on in 2005 (10 years ago) and construction started 2009. Despite the huge advances in tunnelling, it will still take another 5 years to complete.
And of course it is only one part of an ongoing dynamic change in infrastructure of one of the worlds leading cities.
So imagine now trying to raise funding for a Bus Rapid Transport system in Polokwane. The changes will require that roads be changed, new lanes created, negotiations with landowners of key areas, procurement of the equipment. It is not surprising that it has taken over 9 years since serious planning started (2006), and that it will take until 2020 before it is fully implemented, with all the associated traffic disruption of road works etc. Infrastructure in cities takes time to change.
SAMSET modelling shows what the energy consumption of a partner city might look like in 2030. It starts with a ‘business as usual’ model and then explores possible changes, assisting the partners to identify a key change that will make a good (low carbon) longer term change. In the case of Cape Town, the municipality asked for projections to 2040, as the felt 2030 was too close. The timescales in municipality minds are of 10 year, 20 year projects, not 1 to 3 year disconnected projects.
And consider the energy impact of a building. A building will last 40 years or more, so if planning permission is given to an energy inefficient glass tower, the air-con commitment is there until 2063.
So municipal planning has a very long term view. Of course in a counter flow to this long view of the municipal civil servants are the politicians who have a very short term view. Politicians are often concerned with short term benefits and easy wins, so they or their party gets re-elected. For city planners it is a difficult balance.
So when we think of energy transitions what is the right timescale? Well in a complex world we have to think of all the actors, their different needs and juggle all of them together. We do need to find early easy wins so that donors to research projects and politicians are happy enough to fund a phase two. We do need to build capacity so that despite the movement of people from job to job, a municipality gradually gains the required skills to consult, plan and implement longer term energy transitions. And we do need to have a long term view. Building infrastructure, even building buildings, commits a city to a particular energy path for decades not just years, and so those long term implications need to be taken into account.
Mark Borchers, Megan Euston-Brown and Melusile Ndlovu from Sustainable Energy Africa recently contributed this post to the Urbanafrica.net Urban Voices series, analysing the role of local government in sustainable energy transitions. The original is reproduced in full below.
African local governments have an important role to play in sustainable energy transitions, yet the ability within local governments to step into this role is severely inadequate. This is problematic because municipalities, in close contact with their citizenry, are often better placed to plan and respond to energy needs in locally appropriate ways than national governments or other ‘external’ agents.
Urbanization rates in Africa are amongst the highest in the world and the municipal capacity to undertake minimum levels of urban planning and basic service delivery is severely inadequate, as acknowledged by the African Development Bank, UNHabitat and Cities Alliance.
A major challenge is that local government is poorly understood by those trying to be agents of change, and research often remains at a superficial level. Even work which specifically aims at going beyond the usual ‘vague policy suggestions,’ to use a phrase from the ACC’s Edgar Pieterse, struggles to get to grips with many key local government dynamics, and the number of outputs produced by consultants or researchers with local government as an intended target audience, which have little or no purchase, is worrying.
Non-profit Sustainable Energy Africa’s experience of working in partnership with local government in South Africa for 17 years to support with sustainable energy transitions affirms this. The organization has provided capacity to local government in areas where government did not have experience, staff or systems, and in an environment where officials are often preoccupied with short-term service delivery and other urgent goals displace longer-term considerations such as those linked to climate change mitigation.
Sustainable Energy Africa has spent years supporting several municipalities in the development of energy and climate change strategies. However, after official approval of the first few strategies, it started becoming apparent that the momentum that had led to strategy finalization rarely continued into implementation. For example, the first set of strategies developed in the municipalities of Cape Town, Sol Plaatjie, Ekurhuleni, Buffalo City and Tshwane struggled to gain significant traction.
What followed was many years of supportive partnership with municipalities: participating in meetings, undertaking research in areas where there were concerns, developing specific motivations for political or other vested interests as they arose, engaging with city treasury to raise their awareness and explore workable revenue futures, exchanging lessons and sharing success stories amongst municipalities, and raising the profile of local issues in national fora and strategies.
Sustainable Energy Africa’s experience has demonstrated that the work involved in getting to the point of having an officially approved energy and climate change strategy is but a small fraction of what is required for any real change to gain traction. Unfortunately, the dynamics that impede efforts to bring the strategy to fruition are often poorly understood by development support institutions (including donors) and researchers. Guidelines and resource documents on urban transport policy development, climate proofing of informal settlements, and energy efficiency financing, to give a few examples, are often of little use to local government. Research focusing on dynamics affecting service delivery and assessments of renewable energy options for urban areas, for example, seldom talk to the constraints and pressures that senior officials encounter on a day-to-day basis, and thus tend to have little impact.
It is not surprising that adequately detailed understanding of local government is lacking, precisely because it is difficult to gain useful insight into this world from normal development support programmes, which may last a few years and often involve imported expertise, or from research projects, even if they are methodologically well considered. To illustrate, about 10 years ago work undertaken by development support organisations and researchers pointed to solar water heaters being economically, socially and environmentally beneficial for application across South Africa’s urban areas. Cost and technical feasibility studies were undertaken, presentations made, guidelines produced, case studies circulated, and workshops held. Introducing solar water heaters was considered by many to be a ‘no brainer’, and was a standard feature of all municipal energy strategies developed at the time. Yet over the years little changed. Within municipalities there were staff capacity barriers, institutional location uncertainties, debates around mandates, political ambivalence, and a good dose of plain old resistance to change.
When one of the most progressive South African municipalities finally developed a detailed solar water heater rollout programme, further obstacles had to be negotiated: it ran foul of the city treasury (it threatened electricity sales and thus revenue), electricity department (impact on the load profile, technical issues and revenue), procurement department (selection of different equipment service providers), housing department (roof strength issues of some government housing), and legal department (ownership of equipment and tendering processes), which further delayed progress by several years.
Other sustainability interventions such as energy efficiency in buildings, renewable electricity generation and densification (an important enabler of sustainable transport options) all face their own mix of complexities, most of which are difficult to know from the outside.
Change in government institutions seldom happens fast. When those hoping to be agents of change better understand the complexities of municipal functioning, transformation can be more effectively facilitated. Supporting local government often means entering an uncomfortable, messy, non-linear space but it can be more effectively done than often happens. In many ways, what is required is an inversion of the usual approach: support agents or researchers need to respond to the specific, not the general; listen, not advise; seek to be of service rather than pursue a preconceived agenda. The focus of the lens needs to shift well beyond general observations on ‘local institutional capacity’, ‘reform of regulatory systems’ or ‘policy impasses’. What is needed is a much more detailed, nuanced, and longer-term understanding and set of relationships for more impactful engagement.
Through applying these approaches, Sustainable Energy Africa’s work in South Africa has helped local government move from being considered irrelevant to the energy field 10 years ago to being regarded as critical agents to a sustainable energy future today.
A recent independent review of Sustainable Energy Africa’s local government support programme points to its success. It is described as, amongst others, having a clear role in the development of nation-wide city energy data, in facilitating energy efficiency programmes in different sectors in several municipalities, in promoting renewable energy (often rooftop solar PV) in several major cities, and in institutionalizing sustainable energy and climate change issues within municipalities.
Drawing on the above experience, the SAMSET project is working with African municipalities at a detailed level in partnership with universities and development organisations in Africa and the UK, and six municipalities in Uganda, Ghana and South Africa. This collaboration walks the full process of systemic change with the municipalities, and focuses the lens of research and implementation support on this inadequately understood, yet critical, arena – the detailed dynamics in the belly of the local government beast.
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: email@example.com
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.
This blog is part of a series on the Energy and Sustainable Urban Development in Africa workshop, 17 – 21 November, 2014, University of Cape Town. For more details on the purpose of the workshop, see the Day 1 Blog.
Day 2 of the CPD course began with an introduction from SAMSET project partners as to the state of energy in African cities currently, focusing on the SAMSET partner municipalities. The overwhelming majority of energy in African cities across Sub-Saharan Africa is consumed in the buildings sector, with limited exceptions for large industrial towns/cities (such as Steve Tshwete in South Africa), and large transport hubs (such as Jinja in Uganda). Jinja’s status as a transport hub linking Kenya and western Uganda/Central Africa more broadly leads to significantly increased petrol and diesel consumption compared to equivalently-sized settlements, and large increases in carbon emissions for the transport sector as a result. This highlights the necessity once again of the local context in specific municipalities needing to be considered in effective energy transitions.
Modal split of transport use in Accra, Ghana and South Africa as a whole. Source: SEA/ISSER
Municipalities’ own energy usage was also covered in the morning sessions, with particular emphasis on the “low-hanging fruit” still present in many Sub-Saharan African municipalities. SAMSET project team member Melusile Ndlovu presented on a variety of methods for increasing efficiency and reducing energy inputs for municipalities, following experience from a previous Sustainable Energy Africa energy efficiency potential modelling project done for the South African Cities Network (SACN). Municipal energy consumption assessment for this project was grouped under broad headings of bulk water supply and treatment, street and traffic lighting, municipal buildings, and vehicle fleets. The municipal vehicle fleet dominates the total energy savings potential (39%), with savings realisable from improved vehicle practices (the use of fuel efficient tyres, improved maintenance, tyre management, reduced mileage and awareness raising). Energy efficiency interventions in bulk water supply and wastewater treatment were said to hold the greatest electricity and carbon emissions savings potential, among the electricity consuming sectors in the modeled cities, (49% and 41% respectively), mainly due to the potential for more efficient pumping motors coupled with variable speed drives (VSDs). This session also emphasised the importance of municipalities leading by example, providing a foundation for private sector stakeholders to enter the energy efficiency sector.
Parallel sessions in the afternoon covered municipal waste and MSW-energy projects in the SA and Ghanaian context, as well as the household energy transition and household energy poverty. Three presentations or residential and commercial building design, energy consumption and efficiency were given, covering everything from green architecture in the African context for high-end commercial developments, to formalisation activities in the Joe Slovo settlement in Cape Town, and the effect that densification and green design has had on social housing energy consumption.
Energy efficient commercial developments in Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront area. Images: Arup Ltd
Finally, SAMSET project partner Dr Simon Bawakyillenuo from the University of Ghana presented on the Ghanaian energy efficiency standards and labeling program in Ghana, covering topics from the ban of used air conditioner sales, to the government’s 6 million CFL unit dissemination program resulting in a 124 MW peak demand reduction for the country, to the promotion of mass transit and BRT, as well as fuel use reduction in the private vehicle fleet, through public education and promotion.
Group sessions at the Energy and Sustainable Urban Development CPD Course
SAMSET team members were among 40 participants from municipal governments and research institutions across South Africa, Ghana and Uganda at a continuing professional development course held at the University of Cape Town Graduate Business School, beginning on the 17th November 2014. The course was entitled “Energy and Sustainable Urban Development in Africa”, and ran for five days. This blog will present a series of snapshots of the key themes from each day of the course, discussing critical ideas and points to consider for municipal, district and national governments in Sub-Saharan Africa considering the issue of sustainable urban energy transitions.
Day one of the course sought to provide an introduction and overview to sustainable urban development in the global context, drilling down into issues specific to the African, Sub-Saharan African and local contexts. With current projections forecasting a 4 degree Celsius average rise in global temperatures under a business as usual scenario, immense challenges exist globally on how to mitigate the effects of climate change, and adapt where mitigation is impossible.
Urban development is set to dominate human population growth in the coming decades, and with energy intensities of urban areas growing rapidly in the developing world (for example, South African urban areas occupy 4% of the country’s surface area but consume an estimated 50% of the country’s primary energy supply currently, a global challenge exists in making urban development more sustainable. High-carbon development pathways predicated on fossil fuel use, as used from the Industrial Revolution to today, have proven to be costly, both financially and in terms of environmental and social effects, and the need exists to develop and mainstream alternative solutions to urban development.
David Kyasanku from Jinja Municipality, Uganda, presents at the Energy and Sustainable Urban Development CPD course
Municipal governments in Sub-Saharan Africa have a critical role to play in this urban development. Municipal mandates cover a vast array of urban services and roles, from disaster management to provision of sanitation and waste management to spatial planning and transportation. Intimate knowledge of their local contexts, challenges and opportunities also place municipal governments in a strong position to create effective solutions to the urbanisation challenge.
However, there are still issues surrounding the municipal government role in urban energy transitions (a contested terrain). Shifting priorities at both a local and national level for energy create pressures on timeframes for solutions, and a lack of long-term planning was consistently cited as a key challenge at the local level. Stresses, both financially and in terms of capacity through personnel changes, can also contribute to stalling of project implementation. Tailored solutions can also be a challenge to implement, and a key theme of the discussion on day one was the need for community consultation in project design and management, moving to a participatory planning process with local communities to deliver effective solutions in their micro-contexts rather than a centralised planning process.
This blog will provide further insight into the discussions at the CPD course throughout the week, from household energy poverty alleviation to municipal electricity distribution, as well as details from fieldwork and discussions through all sessions.
The third SAMSET network meeting was held in Kalk Bay, Cape Town, South Africa, from the 13th – 15th November 2014. This meeting was intended to bring together project partner organisations with representatives from the project’s municipality partners, in order to share the current state of the project, as well as discuss ideas for further collaboration, provide further insight into the challenges facing municipal energy transitions in Sub-Saharan Africa, and discuss strategies for expanding the reach to urban energy stakeholders (for example, municipal/national policy-makers) of the SAMSET knowledge exchange model and research outcomes, mobilising support for energy transitions in the project partner countries.
SAMSET Network Meeting, Kalk Bay, Cape Town, 13 – 15 November 2014 – Image: Xavier Lemaire
The SAMSET project is working with six partner municipalities: Cape Town and Polokwane in South Africa, Jinja and Kasese in Uganda, and Ga East and Awutu Senya East in Ghana. A broad spectrum of urbanisation and energy consumption exists in these municipalities. Both Cape Town and Jinja municipalities have a diverse manufacturing base and a growing (or in the case of Cape Town, developed) service industry, although Jinja still has some platinum smelting installations. Jinja is also a major transit hub between Kenya and the west of Uganda. Polokwane and Kasese are both rapidly urbanising manufacturing cities. Differences also exist between Ga East and Awutu Senya East, with Ga East being predominantly more affluent and better-serviced, whilst Awutu Senya East has a higher proportion of informality in the residential and commercial sectors.
Several commonalities exist in the state of energy picture in these three countries: significant energy expenditure in the residential and transport sectors is a common theme, as well as high proportions of informality, both in the residential and commercial sectors. This is most notable in the Ugandan context, with large part of the residential and commercial sectors combined in Jinja municipality being informal. The challenges of accurate data collection on informality were another common theme throughout these reports, focusing on the need for house-to-house surveys in some cases.
Project team-specific sessions on the first day revolved around the production of academic papers for the project, and a wide variety of topics were proposed to focus on, ranging from outputs from the University of Cape Town LEAP modelling, to case studies from Ghanaian municipal experiences with waste-to-energy, to more qualitative outputs from the Ugandan data collection experience.
Strategies for dissemination and awareness raising for the project were also discussed, including further promotion of the SAMSET blog and website, as well as new media resources, such as the beta SAMSET app for iOS and Android developed by Gamos, available for download from the Google Play store.
The second day of the network meeting revolved around input from municipal partners as to the ‘dream” of sustainability and sustainable energy transitions in their municipalities, i.e. what goals do the municipalities have for energy transitions, what barriers exist to these goals, and what opportunities are there to overcome these barriers. A wide array of propositions came out of country group discussions.
South African municipalities Polokwane and Cape Town noted the issues in disconnection of key departments in municipalities for energy planning, and saw networking with stakeholders as a primary barrier. Greater integration of departments, more engagement with the national regulator NERSA, and revisiting municipal energy strategies were key goals of the municipalities. SAMSET team members could assist Polokwane and Cape Town in facilitating knowledge transfer and lessons sharing within other municipalities to achieve this.
Ghanaian municipalities notably focused on LPG transport integration, BRT piloting and waste-to-energy piloting. Given the large portion of energy consumption attributable to transport in Ghanaian cities, fuel-switching to LPG, supported by the government’s national LPG dissemination program improving availability, is seen as a route to lower emissions and petrol/diesel consumption. Controlling emissions with transport by-laws, and continuing the piloting of BRT corridors in Ga East are targeted. Investigations of waste-to-energy in both households and commercial developments are also targeted by Ga East and Awutu Senya East, both in terms of landfill-to-energy and household biodigester promotion, building on the work done by SAMSET project partner ISSER at the University of Ghana already.
Urban environment transitions including pedestrianisation in Jinja municipality and the creation of pedestrian-friendly zones in Kasese, were the primary goals in Ugandan partner municipalities. Key stakeholders were assessed as the municipal council and technical departments, transport operators, landlords, parking service providers, corporate organisations and the local community. The transitions targeted focused around improving the pedestrian built environment, both in terms of seating/lighting/other physical factors, to the improvement of safety. The partner municipalities’ methodology in this transition focuses on awareness-raising and campaigning to build public support for pedestrianisation projects, including regular meetings with community leaders and stakeholders to improve engagement and harmonise priorities.
The wide array of factors behind energy transitions were also highlighted in the concrete next steps definition component of this session, for example the huge political and public relations dimension of solar water heating rollout in South Africa, and the importance of data sharing and identifying data gaps between municipalities across the Sub-Saharan African region, achieved through knowledge exchange, lessons-sharing and the championing of the energy transition portfolio in municipal government. Considering energy transitions in isolation was warned against, due to the inherently cross-cutting nature of energy across all spheres of municipal activity. Finally, reflections were also had on the numerous sources of finance for municipal energy projects that exist across sectors, for example donor funding, corporate social responsibility promotion, and bilateral/multilateral partnerships.
Simon Batchelor from Gamos on the potential changes in citizen behaviour over the last decade from some previous research, and how the SAMSET project will help to investigate this.
One of the things that excites me about the SAMSET research project is that we potentially get to revisit earlier research and consider the changes in citizen behaviour over a decade or more. Back in 2005 we researched the Khayelitsha township in Cape Town, as part of the Engineering Knowledge and Research (EngKaR) Programme of the UK Department for International Development (DFID). A sample of 226 households was drawn from four neighbourhoods, representing informal settlement without services (at that time), informal settlement with basic services, RDP houses with services and a community of ‘core houses’. Unusually for that time the electricity supply in the township was operated by an intermediary energy supply company, PN Energy. PN Energy was set up in 1994, had expanded its customer base from 6,000 to 60,000 households, and reduced non-technical losses from around 80% to nearer 5%. They used prepayment technology exclusively, and the connection fee for a household wa 150 R. Nearly 10 years after, I took another look at the PN Energy website and I have to admit that I found the current website fairly uninformative, and I am not sure whether PN Energy has retained its autonomy from Eskom?
For us at that time it was fascinating to see how people managed energy use in the home. The study divided the sample into two groups according to whether household income was above or below R1,500 per month. Energy costs were relatively high for both groups, and amongst the poorer group energy was actually the second highest item of household expenditure. Obviously the exact data is out of date now, and updates are required, but to us it was fascinating that in 2005, electricity appeared to be the preferred means of cooking, at least where people had access to electricity (either formally through a prepayment meter, or informally).
Main cooking appliances
Type of electricity supply
Main cooking appliance
Electric stove / oven
N (households per group):
‘Extension cord’ means just that. For example, one side of the road which had electricity would run a ‘frayed wire’ across the road to give other households electricity – not sanctioned officially but practical and expedient. Such wiring of course can dangerously overheat if too much power is drawn through it. Households with extension cords had a more negative experience of electricity supply than those with metered connections – marginally more households with extension cords experience power cuts, voltage drop that prohibits use of appliances, and damage to appliances. Theft of cables was, naturally, more of a problem amongst households using extension cords. Although more households using extension cords experienced electric shocks, perhaps surprisingly there was no difference in the reported incidence of fires caused by electricity.
However I remember that life was more of a challenge to those who did not have electricity. 21% of the overall sample said they did not use space heating appliances and a further 23% did not respond (indicating they have no appliance). At that time energy poverty was contributing to high rates of pulmonary / respiratory disease in the Western Cape. Also most households without electricity used paraffin, which also presented health hazards. 26% of non-electrified households use an imbhawula which can also be dangerous when used in enclosed spaces.
I hope we get a chance to find out how life has changed over the ten years?