Presentation of the Energy 4 Wellbeing project progress and preliminary results at the University of Exeter.
Professor Federico from the University of Exeter and Dr Norman Mathebula from the University of Cape Town jointly gave a presentation to postgraduate students and staff at the University of Exeter. The presentation was mainly about the progress made by Energy 4 Wellbeing project and preliminary data analysis around the energy related wellbeing in Qandu Qandu, an informal settlement around Khayelitsha, Cape Town. The attendance was 17.
Considering the effect of Covid 19, it has been found that good progress has been made regarding the installation process of the mini-grids (see below). Three mini-grids towers have been completely installed and about 20 people have started getting access to clean electricity. The fourth tower is expected to be completed soon.
From the socio-economic information it has been found that around above 60% of the surveyed people (n=300), most of whom are within the working age were not employed. As a result, they rely entirely on children grants provided by government. The only services provided by government in the settlement is water delivered by a water truck every week and toilets which are cleaned every week. Common energy sources used for cooking, lighting, and keeping warm are paraffin, gas, and candles. However, many households are also connected to the grid through illegal means from the nearby formal houses and transmission lines (see below).
Illegal electricity connection has led to number of incidents in the settlement such as burning of houses (shacks) in the past making people to leave in fear. Access to clean energy via smart solar mini-grids associated with Energy 4 Wellbeing project provides hope towards addressing wellbeing aspects. Access to clean electricity, jobs, and safety and security, having formal houses have emerged as the common wellbeing domains of many people from the ongoing interviews. For instance, many people feel that through access to clean electricity, their sense of safety and security will improve because of an improved visibility in the neighbourhood and that crime which is rife in the area can be reduced. Being able to charge mobile phones, people believe that they can have access to internet which they can use to access information related to job vacancies, children education, among others.
Energy4wellbeing solar minigrid project adds (DC) freezer/fridges in its offering at Qandu Qandu informal settlement, Cape Town
In 2021, the project is well underway and an exciting development in our activities is the inclusion of two low-consumption direct current (DC) freezer/fridges into our solar minigrid offer to the community we are working with. Zonke Energy is taking the lead on exploring the technical, financial and community parameters we need to work with in order to offer refrigeration services additional to our solar minigrid offer.
The provision of refrigeration is really important: the lack of energy for refrigeration in the Qandu Qandu informal settlement, Cape Town has been identified as one of the major concerns of the residents. The residents of Qandu Qandu have explained to us that the mostly ‘illegal’ electricity that they access is insufficient to make use of fridges. The consequence is that no perishable groceries can be kept in the home, and that residents have to shop more frequently, or have to abstain from any fresh groceries. These circumstances add substantially to the cost of living of the residents in Qandu Qandu, and decrease their wellbeing.
The provision of refrigeration to members of the community who are minigrid clients has therefore been identified as a priority. This doesn’t come without its own challenges, financial and technical. The gap between affordability and the cost of off-grid refrigeration is the major obstacle in providing clients with refrigeration. With this in mind, Zonke Energy
are presently testing a range of alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC) fridges in their laboratory and in clients’ households. The energy consumption of the DC fridges that the project aims to use is, we are told, 35% lower than the consumption of the fridges that are currently available on the market in South Africa. We therefore believe that the addition of fridge availability to the minigrid will add substantially to the relevance of our research into off-grid refrigeration.
Energy4Wellbeing project members received Newton Award for their collaborative work done in 2016-2019
By Capritto Federico, University of Exeter
It is a pleasure to announce that two of our project team members, Prof. Federico Caprotti (University of Exeter) and Dr. Jiska de Groot (University of Cape Town) were awarded the Chair’s Prize at the November 2020 Newton Prize awards ceremony. See the UKRI press release here.
The Chair’s Prize was awarded on the basis of Federico and Jiska’s previous collaborative work, in 2016-19, on an ESRC-NRF project on urban energy transformations. However, the £500K prize will be spent on a highly innovative project aiming to link our Energy4Wellbeing work on solar microgrids in informal settlements, to ways of addressing the need for refrigeration in the communities we work with. To that end, we will be working closely with Zonke Energy as our private sector partners with deep experience in solar microgrid development, installation and operation in the community. Zonke Energy will lead on the technical aspects of developing refrigeration capacity and business models.
The result of all this is the new, UMBANE project, which will kick off in April 2021. It will see an expansion of our work in Quando Quando, and will also involve the use of refrigeration appliances as small-scale businesses for local entrepreneurs.
This is an exciting development, since the project team are keenly aware that it isn’t just electricity that is a key need to be addressed in off-grid spaces, but also a range of other needs that have, so far, largely been ignored in the development and innovation literature. Refrigeration is one of these (data is another), and we are excited to be engaging in this work.
Slides from our innovateuk presentation
By Federico Caprotti, University of Exeter
And as promised last week, please slides from our presentation last week below. And you can find a video of our presentation here (if the link does not work - InnovateUK only keep these videos available for a few months - please email the project team and we can make it available).
By Federico Caprotti, University of Exeter
It was great to see Hendrik Schloemann and Alex Densmore from Zonke Energy, and Federico Caprotti from the University of Exeter, presenting and fielding questions at a virtual brokerage event - a webinar held on Zoom - yesterday as part of the InnovateUK KTN Energy Catalyst Round 8 webinar (the full schedule can be found here). Although the webinar was just 45 minutes, we covered a lot of ground and fielded numerous interesting questions about partnership and also about the details of the project, from wellbeing assessments to working with partners on a project such as this.
We'll post the slides in our next post, but it was great to see 175 people registered for the webinar, which is evidence of great interest in innovative technologies in informal settlement contexts. It's also great to see the interest from SMEs wanting to work in South Africa and with South African partners.
By Federico Caprotti, University of Exeter
It’s exciting to announce that the Energy4Wellbeing project is now live, and we are well and truly underway in our aim of understanding the wellbeing impacts of installing and operating a solar-powered microgrid in an informal settlement in Cape Town.
The project, awarded by the British Academy’s Urban Infrastructures of Wellbeing programme, runs until the end of 2021 and we’ve hit the ground running.
a.) A kick-off meeting in Exeter. The project partners from the University of Exeter, the University of Cape Town, Thrie Energy Collective, and Zonke Energy spent two days planning for the different project stages.
b.) Minigrid site selection. We’ve had a regular series of meetings to discuss site selection for the minigrid, published outputs, and research contributions. Hendrik Schloemann and Alex Densmore at Zonke Energy have great insight into the informal settlement communities we may end up working with. It was great to see the depth of engagement with how to select an appropriate site in which the minigrid can be installed. Engaging with community leaders, and making sure the solar minigrid offering is attractive to the community, is key.
c.) Wellbeing. We have been asking ourselves what wellbeing relating to energy means, and in turn how it plays out in informal contexts. This is so we can get the responses to relevant and concrete questions.
c.) Our digital data collection. Kimenthrie Pillay at the Thrie Energy Collective has started working on putting together one of the key, exciting and innovative parts of the project: collecting data on energy-related wellbeing through the Data Huddle app. We’ll be using the app to collect data - at no cost to the community (actually, participants will benefit through getting an airtime credit for participation) - that will help us build a ‘baseline’ understanding of community needs. This will be followed by the post intervention well-being assessment, where the app will track changes to wellbeing resulting from the installation of the solar minigrid.
d.) Site visits. While app-based data collection offers innovative and exciting ways of collecting data on wellbeing, this does not replace qualitative, face-to-face research. Norman Mathebula (the African Climate & Development Initiative (ACDI) postdoctoral researcher), is taking the lead on research in the community through community meetings and a regular series of interviews.
Watch this space as we will be sharing updates and thought pieces from team members!