A dawn for South Africa’s poor?

November 10, 2010

Getting wired up. Credit: Kuyasa CDM project

A lack of funds is stalling the second phase of the Kuyasa solar energy project, South Africa’s first internationally registered Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project under the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

I was part of the group of ASADI delegates who chose to visit the solar project while others visited the Koeberg nuclear power station and or the Palmiet Pumped Storage Scheme – a hydroelectricity venture between power utility Eskom and the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry

Guided by Zuko Ndamane, the site project manager at the Kuyasa project site in the poor Cape Town township of Khayelitsha, we saw how cheap energy had transformed the lives of residents.

The Kuyasa project (Kuyasa means dawn in Xhosa, a local language) has fitted free government houses with solar water heaters and insulated ceilings.

“The pride in the projects is it was 100 percent locally driven, local people were trained to install the water heaters. With its success we are now struggling for funds to complete the phase two of the project,” said Ndamane.

One woman who had an opportunity to welcome the researchers into her own house beamed with pride as she explained how happy she was to live in a secure house with access to affordable electricity.

As the tour bus drove off, it was clear to us visitors that this project could be replicated elsewhere in Africa.

Munyaradzi Makoni, freelance journalist for SciDev.Net

Africa’s energy deficiency

November 8, 2010

The energy part of the conference was launched this evening with the publication of a booklet for policymakers on ways to improve access to energy across Africa.

The booklet, Turning Science On: Improving Access to Energy in Sub-Saharan Africa, was launched by Roseanne Diab of the Academy of Science of South Africa, at an event attended by the country’s science minister, Naledi Pandor.

Minister Pandor (right) unveiling a giant copy of the booklet

The report draws on a number of sources to sketch an overview of challenges facing the expansion of access to energy in Africa.

For instance, the 2010 report Energy Poverty, by the UN Development Programme and the International Energy Agency, says some 585 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa, or 70 per cent of the population, do not have access to electricity.

The policy recommendations include:

*State-owned power utilities are still dominant in the region and there is an urgent need for them to undergo governance reform as they are not performing well.

*Increasing private sector investment in the power sector is urgently needed. There are more than 40 Independent Power Producers across Africa that produce a total of 8,000 megawatts of power. Small independent producers must be encouraged to connect to the grid.

*The most effective way to increase electrification is to connect densely populated urban areas first and then rural growth centres where demand is expected to increase.

*Expanded regional electricity trade, where electricity generated in countries with relatively low costs of production from large hydro, gas and geothermal schemes is transmitted to countries where power is more expensive, would expand access to electricity.

The booklet will be published on www.assaf.org.za in the course of this evening.

Munyaradzi Makoni, freelance journalist for SciDev.Net

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