Urban Transformation in South Africa Through Co-Designing Energy Services Provision Pathways

The project will focus on co-designing context sensitive energy provision pathways, that will achieve impact with academic, policy, practitioner, and community beneficiaries.

The research project will investigate how the diverse challenges of energy provision in the South African context are inter-related with broader, on-going transitions to inclusive, secure and sustainable urban energy systems globally. In particular, the research will assess the broader structural pressures on current urban energy system configurations and urban responses to these pressures, investigate the dynamics of energy transitions, and the provision of energy services to low-income users in South African cities.

Project consists of SA research partners (the University of Cape Town’s Energy Research Centre) and UK partners (King’s College London; the University of Manchester; Plymouth University and the University of Sussex), together with the local energy transition expertise of Sustainable Energy Africa to achieve this.

The key activities are:

  1. Develop an understanding of the socio-technical development and evolution of urban energy systems in South Africa, and their implications for sustainable urban livelihoods, low carbon energy provision, poverty, and inclusivity. A key contribution will be the development of a socio-technical narrative examining the development of urban energy systems in the South African context.
  2. Carry out case study-based analysis of niche innovations/experiments in urban energy systems in South Africa. Selected experiments will focus on energy delivery to the poor while developing transformative pathways towards green urban economies. This will ensure a focus on socio-economic impact and equity as part of a more nuanced focus on energy systems and pathways.
  3. Co-design context-sensitive approaches to transformative energy pathways at the municipal scale in South Africa, using a range of methodological approaches and engagement with stakeholders from municipalities and NGOs.
  4. Develop lessons for transferability of project knowledge to other urban contexts in South Africa, Southern Africa, and beyond, through consistent engagement with policymakers.

Donor: The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)  and National Research Foundation (NRF)
2016 - 2019
Project manager:
Yachika Reddy