Sustainable Low-income Housing a First for South Africa

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The need for promoting suppressed energy demand and sustainable development in the carbon market are just some of the topics under discussion at COP17. In this post, Dinika Govender of Future Cape Town looks at a social housing project that puts this into action, delivering a viable model for low-income housing throughout South Africa.

“Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone. It’s not warm when she’s away…”

These are lyrics that the City of Cape Town seems to hope its citizens never have to sing during infamously cold, damp winter months and paraffin-powered nights. In October 2008 the City celebrated the completion of the Kuyasa Energy Efficiency Project- an initiative developed by the NGO, SouthSouthNorth in line with Cape Town’s Energy and Climate Change Strategy- to fit almost 2300 homes with solar water-heaters (SWH’s). The project simultaneously addresses environmental concerns, low-income service delivery, job creation, skills development and socio-economic improvement.

It’s not just another bright-spark either; this project is a first for the City, and for South Africa, on numerous levels:

  • It’s Africa’s first Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) registered by the UNFCCC Executive Board
  • The world’s first Gold Standard project to be registered under the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change.

Fitting the Solar Bill

The Kuyasa Project earns carbon off-set credits, with the carbon income allocated to solar water-heater maintenance and future expansion of the installations. The project is funded by the Department of Environment and Tourism’s Social Responsibility Programme and the Western Cape’s Department of Housing, and implementation undertaken by the South African Export Development Fund. As of January 2007, the initial cost of the project stood at R20 million, R12 million of which is for the heaters alone.

Light relief

It may not have been the cheapest energy project, but the socio-economic and environmental benefits have been positive and replicable to date- two outcomes that can make both policy-makers and takers optimistic. Initial surveys of SWH recipients report improved energy efficiency and electricity savings of R50/month; reduced paraffin burning leading to savings of up to R400/month; and reduced cases of paraffin-induced respiratory illnesses.

As COP17 delegates debate the need for promoting “suppressed demand for energy services” and “sustainable development in the carbon market” amongst other green topics, the City’s Kuyasa Energy Efficiency Project is putting its carbon-credits where its mouth is- and its successful implementation will demonstrate a viable model to leverage grant funding for energy upgrades to low-income housing throughout South Africa.

17 Sustainable Ideas for COP17 is a collaboration between This Big City and Future Cape Town running alongside the United Nations Climate Change Conference from November 28th to December 9th.