This year has been fairly unusual and as much as we are adapting to the change it brings, it leads to new and unfamiliar experiences. Sharné Bloem is a researcher at the CST and a grantee of the Leading Integrated Research for Agenda (LIRA) 2030 in Africa program by International Science Council. Her abstract was accepted for an oral presentation at the 2020 Asia Conference on Renewable Energy And Environmental Engineering (AREEE 2020) in Bangkok,Thailand during April 14-16, 2020. Since COVID19 has brought such a big part of the world to a sudden halt, this conference was moved to an online platform, where speakers from all over the world presented their research virtually.

The presentation reflects on a study done on the theoretical underpinning of the global energy democracy movement and the integrated socio-technical analysis of two case studies in South Africa: the Lynedoch EcoVillage mini-grid pilot project by Eskom and an off-grid solar utility using solar home systems by iShack. Both these case studies suggest that there are emergent alternatives that can realize all or some of the energy democracy goals. The Lynedoch case study faced socio-technical challenges such as net metering mechanisms and setting a renewable energy tariff contributed to a steep learning curve and further delays. iShack, as a social enterprise and through experimenting with constant innovative learning processes, has grown through sheer pain and logic of three active sites in the last decade to become a more well-rounded organization.

The integrated socio-technical analysis of both these case studies shows that each represents very different energy democracy dynamics, although they are both micro-level interventions, they contribute to the debate on African energy democracy.