The energy and climate plan of South Africa’s Cape Town city has a number of goals, of which one is to achieve 10% renewable and cleaner energy supply by 2020. In addition, the city aims to meet growth in electricity demand with cleaner renewable power.

The plan’s other objectives include:

  • Building a more compact, resource-efficient city.
  • Developing a more sustainable transport system.
  • Raising awareness and promoting behaviour change through communication and education.
  • Undertaking research and development to improve on the plan.
  • Establishing data management systems.
  • Monitoring and evaluating the plan annually.

The council or local authority is also taking responsibility for its energy usage and is leading by example. It boasts of energy savings of R18 million per year. The council aimed for a 10% reduction in energy consumption by 2012 but this target was exceeded and it reached 12.8% instead. Most of the traffic lights have been retrofitted, low wattage street lights are being used instead, and council buildings are installing photovoltaic rooftop panels.

Programs have been put into place to help the community save electricity. Some tips don’t cost a penny, while others involve a low cost such as wrapping pipes. Bigger investments, such as solar water heating is also suggested to those who are interested. The city’s resource conservation branch of energy and climate change manager, Sarah Ward says, “Investment savers such as solar water heating, provide a great deal of savings and have long-term benefits. While it saves the customer money in the long-term, these investments also provide jobs in the community.”

Customer tips include:

  • Fitting energy efficient light bulbs.
  • Use the shower instead of the bath.
  • Lower the geyser temperature.
  • Install solar water heaters (a solar water heater accreditation program has been established).

Solar Water Heating has major potential for energy reduction and long-term sustainability. The council carried out research before they launched the program and discovered that 76.9% of people have an informed opinion about solar water heating. Unfortunately there was a huge lack of trust in installers and only 31% agreed that installers are competent. However, consumers chose the council as the most trusted installer at 71.7%. Says Ward, “While this was exciting for council, we were put under pressure to get it right. Consumers can now choose an accredited installer from our website.”

While the cost of this heating system proves to be a major barrier (85.9% say they can’t afford it), the accredited suppliers will help with a payment scheme to suit various pockets.

Ward explains that the solar water heater program has many financial benefits for households and the city’s economy, as well as the environment.

For each 100,000 heating systems installed, the following savings are made:

• The city of Cape Town gets to keep R300 million per annum that would have been paid to the national utility, Eskom.

• A total of R800 million per annum in savings from households once systems are paid off.

• About R1 billion will be invested in local solar water heater business which creates local employment.

• Electricity savings of 280,000 MWh per annum will be made (This is 3% of the city’s total current consumption).

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