Towards a Just Energy Transition in South Africa through affordable electricity for low income households

SEA's role in this project explored the challenges of affordable electricity service delivery and established an evidence base to equip government to review current policies related to electricity access and explore how to mitigate the potentially negative impacts of renewable energy development on the sustainability of basic electricity access across the country.  

A number of shifts and changes have happened within the electricity access space over the 20 plus years since democracy. Understanding the impact of the low carbon energy transition on access to grid electricity in South Africa is central to ensuring a just transition. The cornerstone of the country’s poverty alleviation efforts is dependent on the sustainable functioning of the municipal (and Eskom) distribution utilities which is impacted by the energy transition. This project examined these implications through research with community and government stakeholders.

The project activities included:

  • Energy Access Policy Review and Impacts Assessment – reviewed policy and practice of the provision of affordable electricity through Free Basic Electricity and subsidised tariffs, with recommendations for improvement and innovations at national and local government level.
  • Evaluate Energy transition impacts and evaluation of distribution utility viability – investigated the impact of energy transition viz. embedded generation and energy efficiency on the financial sustainability of municipalities and their ability to continue delivering FBE and lifeline tariffs
  • Support emerging practices of collaboration and communication between local government and poor urban communities – capacitate municipalities to engage with communities and increase the understanding of energy use and the energy transition in indigent households
  • Partnerships and stakeholder collaboration towards unified approach – draw inputs from industry experts towards low-income energy provision, alternatives financing options, national and local government policy development innovations and collaborate with SALGA to contribute knowledge and establish a collaborative working environment for improved low – income energy delivery.

This video explores the perspectives of electricity service provision in the Greater Kokstad Local Municipality and by the local community.

Funder: Open Society Foundation For South Africa

Timeline: January 2023 – December 2023

Project Team: Megan Euston-Brown, Simisha Pather-Elias, Senamile Sishi, Sinawo Sigalelana, Julia Tathum; Gwynne Liversage