Major Research Project

Bridging Decentralized Energy Planning with Neigbourhood-level Innovations in Cities of Africa: case studies from Kampala and Stellenbosch

Project Leader(s): Phumlani Nkontwana

Cities across Africa are undergoing an urban energy transition in a bid to address the environmental challenges associated with fast-paced urbanization and increasing carbon emissions, while contributing to the implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy); SDG 11 (make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable); and SDG 13 (take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts). However, building up the required institutional capacity for an effective urban energy transition has resulted into constant and continuing pressure on national and local governments to develop planning frameworks and institutional capacities that respond to the multiple demands associated with creating inclusive and pro-poor urban energy systems. In response to these challenges, national governments in partnership with municipal authorities are exploring decentralised energy transition frameworks that are expected to lead to effective deployment of alternate energy technologies within underprivileged communities with socio-economic and environmental benefits. Confronted with the challenge of not being able to engage with and influence policies and decision-making structures that govern decentralised energy transition planning, the urban poor in partnership with development agencies are exploring practical solutions that can break the barriers to sustainable access and use of alternative energy while demonstrating potential to obtain socially inclusive and environmentally-friendly energy futures at community scale.

This study explores energy transition within self-organising and sustaining context of urban sub – Saharan Africa, exploring the boundaries of an imagined sustainable energy future through the lenses of ongoing renewable energy projects at various scales in three selected case studies with specific focus on the following technological interventions – solar lamps, rooftop household solar systems, off-grid solar and on grid solar in Ghana and South Africa. In an effort to adequately investigate the aforementioned, the main research objective is to study how decentralised energy planning is connected to social innovations at neighbourhood level, and what would an integrative framework that links policy actions with these social innovations look like? To answer this question, the study will begin with a systematic review of academic and non-academic literature on the characteristics and phases of decentralised energy in African cities and the implications for social innovation at neighbourhood scale. This will be followed by a comparative in-depth case study approach of 2 African cities: Stellenbosch (South Africa) and Bukom (Accra) that have experimented the principles of energy transitions at various scales. The project will engage city authorities, community leaders, NGO’s and other relevant stakeholders in these two cities: Lynedoch Eco Village (Stellenbosch), Enkanini (Stellenbosch) and Bukom (Accra). The interaction will also include expert planners and entrepreneurial innovators who will be actively participating over the entire duration of the project.

Associated student led projects

    Related Publications