South African Informal Settlements Turn to Renewable Energy

A group of organisations have created successful small projects, but now they want to aim bigger. Activist organisations have helped establish three community-owned renewable energy projects.

The Urban Movement Incubator: Energy Democracy Project, launched in 2021, brought together environmental organisations groundWork and Sustainable Energy Africa with Durban-based social movement Abahlali baseMjondolo, the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, and the Vukani Environmental Movement in eMalahleni, Mpumalanga.

In its first year, the Energy Democracy Project focussed on raising awareness on renewable energy, says Siphesihle Mvundla, Energy Democracy Campaigner at groundWork. This included community meetings where people explained their problems with local officials about accessing electricity and rates.

Josh Dippenaar, of Cape Town based non-profit Sustainable Energy Africa said that although the solar units in the three communities demonstrated their value, reducing the effect of loadshedding and power outages, such rooftop solar installations are "not a scalable model for low-income communities".

The solar hub at eKhenana has a library, a fridge and television.

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