EDRC to influence WSSD debates on energy and development

12 August 2002
By Erina Botha

A CD ROM outlining the lessons learned during the roll-out of Eskom's electrification project over the past decade, has been produced by UCT's Energy and Development Research Centre (EDRC) and will be launched at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD).

Entitled Contributing to Improved Access to Energy Services for Sustainable Development – Partnership Between Eskom and the University of Cape Town, it is aimed at policy makers, researchers, utilities and the general public. It covers topics such as technical issues in electricifcation, delivery of services such as electrification, improving affordability by increasing the efficiency of using electricity, and lessons learnt from the South African experience.

According to EDRC director, Professor Ogunlade Davidson, one of the lessons learned from the collaborative research done by Eskom and the EDRC was that it is much more effective to incorporate systems of payment before electrification takes place, rather than introducing them afterwards. It was also learnt that electrification of previously disadvantaged areas not only promoted economic development, but had a notable impact on improved health and education. Another major finding was that the electricity uptake was not as rapid as originally predicted and that because of the expense of electrical equipment the use of multiple fuels in poor households continued post-electrification.

"Where electricity displaced the use of paraffin, coal and wood for cooking and space heating, a decrease can be seen in paraffin poisoning, burns and respiratory illnesses, for instance. Teaching has improved because better facilities could be established and pupils can study in the evening."

The CD will be launched at a one-day conference to be hosted by Eskom on August 26 as a side-event to the WSSD.

The EDRC will also be impacting the WSSD with its Energy and Sustainable Development in Africa (ESDA) initiative, a collaboration with over 50 African energy and development experts. The initiative will develop a comprehensive resource for African policy makers, donors and multilateral aid agencies on success factors and approaches for energy and development in Africa. The research is based on a new synthesis of both the conceptual framework for energy and development in Africa and a series of case studies from Africa to map a way forward in terms of making high quality energy services available throughout Africa. A second objective is to influence the Johannesburg WSSD debate by presenting real success and failure case studies from Africa.

The first major output of the project will be a book on the topic in English and French, the synthesis of which will be launched at the World Summit. The second and third major outputs will be the links to a database of energy and development success stories in Africa, and to strengthen existing research networks to support this database.

The ESDA initiative is part of the broader programme called Knowledge Networks for Sustainable Energy in Africa, of which EDRC is one of the lead institutions. The Network aims to provide a dynamic Africa-wide network of energy, environment and development policy research centres with outreach and information sharing that will contribute to the Knowledge Networks database and provide ongoing support to policy makers. The Network will use the case studies from the ESDA book to input to a database of energy projects, using a consistent format and methodology for evaluating their successes and failures.

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