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!