Voicing the urban poor: New report highlights experiences from an energy justice programme
A new report published in the Field Actions Science Reports aims at voicing the urban poor and their experiences from the Energy Justice Programme.
Authors David Sheridan the Slum Dwellers International (SDI) Energy Justice Programme (EJP) coordinator, Mwaura Njogu a Renewable Energy Engineering Consultant, Andrew Maki the Co-director of Justice and Empowerment Initiatives (JEI) and Frederick Agyemang the Project coordinator EJP Ghana all work within the SDI Network.
SDI is committed to project typologies that produce learning at scale around clean energy access as part of our informal settlement upgrading agenda and empower the urban poor. Since 2014, we have been actively involved in the field of access to energy in Africa, India and the Philippines with our SDI Energy Justice Programme leverages community-led collection of disaggregated energy access data, community empowerment programmes and pro-poor access models. With the growing need for access in slums, our model offers bottom-up, innovative and adaptable methodological options for catalysing pro-poor change at settle, city and global levels.
Read the full report here.
The EJP is a demonstrative case study of SDI’s actions to improve access to essential services in slums and thereby empower the urban poor. The programme uses all of SDI’s tools, including the Know Your City (KYC) data collection programme, to generate grassroots and tailor-made solutions to energy access in slums.
Energy for the urban poor
Energy is a key condition for developing essential services in these neighbourhoods. SDI’s EJP has active projects in 12 countries, namely Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia, India and the Philippines which has enabled affiliate federations to provide improved energy access. Approximately 25 000 distinct households with nearly 100 000 beneficiaries in total benefitting from the improvements.
According to the report, lack of access to sustainable energy is a significant barrier to slum development. The EJP sets out to leverage SDI’s core rituals of community-led settlement profiling, women-led savings groups and peer-to-peer exchanges to develop innovative solutions to critical service delivery gaps and scalable energy access projects to integrate into wider settlement upgrading programmes.
Data products produced as outputs from the EJP, such as this report, are vital tools for influencing and negotiating with key stakeholders.
The longstanding work of SDI’s Kenyan affiliate with the Nairobi City County Government (NCCG) resulted in the Mukuru informal settlements being designated as a Special Planning Area in 2017. This breakthrough subsequently demonstrated the application of community mobilisation methodologies and participatory approaches to slum re-development planning and implementation. In collaboration with NCCG, Kenya’s SDI affiliate coordinated the work of developing a comprehensive spatial plan for the redevelopment of Mukuru.
This model is a great example of utilising SDI’s work as evidence and negotiating with influential decision-makers.
The report highlights, that SDI’s Energy Justice Programmes ratchet effect which reveals that the evidence can be used to influence decision-makers, and cooperate with them (public, private, local and international), which can result in the adoption of contextual legal frameworks, just like Mukuru SPA and may assist in guaranteeing the institutionalised co-creation process in the long-term.
The report emphasises some key learnings in terms of project design and impacts, which were identified between the inception of the EJP and now. According to the reports, there is no “one size fits all” approach to a project. The authors do not propose a unique solution to each context, but rather a strong methodology to legitimise each energy solution emerging from and required in a specific context.
Savings groups can fund solar energy systems. Within the SDI network, savings groups have been particularly adapted to the improvement of energy access in African slums. These groups can be a practical financing solution, especially for the EJP, with the model itself being easily replicable and adaptable.
Training community members on the technical aspects of solar systems is integral to the implementation plan.
Solar energy systems have great spillover effects. The transition to low-carbon energy systems is increasingly considered an important point in delivering energy for urban-poor communities. This recognises that communities must play an instrumental role in the implementation and management of these energy transitions. Thus far transitions have been slow, but by including communities to drive and co-create the opportunities for energy transitions, the adoption of innovative technologies may be accelerated, and more inclusive in terms of policy development and it enables capacity and skills building to support new and current economic activities.
Download the full report.
Amui Dzor Solar Project in Ashaiman, Ghana
As of 2017, the Ghana Federation of the Urban Poor (GHAFUP) has organized 338 groups in 25 cities and towns. A few years ago in Ashaiman, Greater Accra, the federation and its partners constructed a low cost housing project for 36 families, incorporating commercial facilities and public space. The development is called the Amui Dzor Housing Project and it is managed by a community cooperative. This year, the community began to organize its members and consider how they might capitalize on the Energy Commission of Ghana’s subsidy programme for rooftop solar PV. This aims to promote renewable energy use for households but is framed as being only accessible to detached houses rather than multi-family dwellings such as Amui Dzor. The priority for the organizing was to establish whether a solar project could reduce the utility bills of Amui Dzor residents and provide a reliable source of electricity to homes and businesses.
With support from the federation support NGO People’s Dialogue and SDI, the federation began engagement with the Energy Commission to request a partnership for the solar electrification of Amui Dzor and demonstrate Ghana’s first multi-family housing facility to make use of a net metering and smart metering system. The community argued that the project would serve as a precedent-setting project for affordable low impact housing. The Energy Commission signed on with enthusiasm as did the Ashaiman Municipal Council, both agencies providing significant support to the project. The ground was set for project design and implementation.
The final project design not only reduces the energy tariffs of the cooperative, but increases their resilience to electricity tariff increases and outages. Although this project involves a building retrofit, the intention is for it to set a precedent for solar integration into all future low-income housing developments. The Amui Dzor project complements the Ghana Alliance’s efforts to extend access to household solar kits and lanterns. In all projects, the federation has trained members in solar system installation and maintenance.
The Ghana slum dweller federation efforts contribute to improved city resilience by increasing access to affordable and clean energy, improving skills and offering training in low income communities, and demonstrating effective mechanisms for partnership between communities and government.
This post is part of a series of case studies from our 2017 Annual Report titled ‘The Road to Resilience.’ Emerging from the field of ecology, ‘resilience’ describes the capacity of a system to maintain or recover from disruption or disturbance. Cities are also complex systems and a resilience framework addresses the inter- connectedness of formal and informal city futures. Moreover, it enables a nuanced reflection on the nature of shocks and chronic stressors – recognising that the latter are particularly acute in slum dweller communities and that this critically undermines the entire city’s economic, social, political, and environmental resilience.As with personal resilience, city resilience demands awareness, acknowledgment of reality, and a capacity to move beyond reactivity to responses that are proactive, thoughtful, and beneficial to the whole. The most enlightened individuals and cities will be those that understand their responsibility to the most vulnerable and to the planet. Our 2017 Annual Report showcases some of SDI’s achievements over the past year on the road to resilience. Click here for the full report.
iShack Project & South African SDI Alliance expand solar services to Longlands community
This material originally appeared on the iShack Facebook page.
The Longlands community is a small group of households living in informal dwellings on the outskirts of Stellenbosch in South Africa’s Western Cape. The South African SDI Alliance has been working with the community since 2016 and is providing support to address their needs for basic services. Recently, the Longlands residents visited the community in Siqalo to see how Solar Home Systems (SHS) work. Following this visit, they decided to pursue the installation of SHS while they wait to be connected to the formal grid. It was at this point that the SA SDI Alliance and the Longlands community began to work with iShack to develop a plan to jointly provide solar electricity service to Longlands.
First, the community established a savings group, saving incrementally to generate financial contributions towards the cost of SHS for each household. In addition to these savings, the SA SDI Alliance provided grant funding and highly subsidised loans to each household to finance SHS installation.
As a result of these efforts, each household has now received a Solar Home System that powers lights, a television, and charges cell phones and other small media devices. Longlands is close to iShack’s operational base in Stellenbosch and a regular schedule of maintenance and monitoring, including a dedicated Hotline service for reporting any issues and bi-monthly drop-ins, has been planned. Maintenance is often neglected when offering technical solutions to low income communities, but the community-driven process implemented jointly by iShack and the SA SDI Alliance is all about sustainable maintenance service in order to ensure maximum durability and reliability. Capacity building and green skills development for local residents form part of the project, adding a job creation element to the project that enhances community ownership, resilience, and project sustainability.[caption id="attachment_12552" align="alignleft" width="600"] Solar panels being installed on a shack rooftop.[/caption]
At this point there appears to be only one major challenge: the community continues to await agreement from Stellenbosch Municipality to subsidise the ongoing maintenance and monitoring of the energy service – a subsidy provided to the 1500 households in the nearby community of Enkanini. Fortunately, the existing agreement between iShack and Stellenbosch Municipality makes provision for service extension to new communities, so there is reason to believe that the Municipality will agree. Longlands residents have submitted a formal request for this support and are waiting for a final answer.
In the meantime, SHS installations will continue. Last week, an Induction Workshop was held for the community, explaining the ins and outs of the SHS to residents and ensuring residents know how to get the most out of their new technology. Two additional pilot systems were also installed.[caption id="attachment_12555" align="alignnone" width="600"] Longlands community learns about the iShack technology.[/caption]
Although this is a small community project, it represents an important development for a service-delivery model in which communities – partnered with technical service providers and supported by capacity-building organisations like the SA SDI Alliance – take active steps to meet their development needs.
Learn more about the iShack project here and the South African SDI Alliance here.
Solar for the Slums of Jinja
As of 2017, the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU) has organized 2,052 groups in 20 cities and towns. In Jinja, as in many cities in Uganda, the poor generally pay significantly more for electricity than formally grid-connected city residents. In addition, they are often exposed to grave danger by illegally tapping the main supply, or mixing kerosene with diesel to prolong its use — exposing themselves to respiratory risk and fires that quickly wipe out entire settlements. The federation has been organizing in Jinja for over ten years and is recognized for having one of the strongest community-government partnerships in the SDI network. In 2017, the federation began to organize for clean energy solutions, starting with targeted profiling and enumeration of informal settlement energy needs and priorities.
With support from SDI, the federation was able to develop and sign an MOU with Jinja Municipal Council (JMC), leveraging a 10% subsidy for 650 solar home systems and securing support for a pilot for solar-powered off-grid public street lighting. This contribution was subsequently increased to a 50% financial contribution by the Mayor. The project demonstrates an alternative basic energy service delivery model delivered by a community-based service cooperative with a membership drawn from the regional federation. The Jinja Basic Energy Service Cooperative provides subsidized access to home systems and will work in collaboration with the JMC to fabricate, install, and maintain pedestrian street lighting. The project aligns with settlement upgrading spatial plans co-produced by the federation, university and NGO partners, and the Council to provide visible and tangible change around which the community can organize to achieve more complex aims, such as land sharing agreements. Project finance is managed through the federation savings and loans systems. The project design offers a cost optimization model for clean energy service delivery for low-income households and public spaces in low-income communities.
Uganda is known for having some of the best conditions for solar energy in the world. Although the solar market in Uganda is well developed, the sector has yet to accommodate the majority of the urban population who reside in slums. With this project, Jinja has become a learning center for solar energy solutions, hosting peer-to-peer exchanges and trainings with federations from across East Africa. The project aims to improve the built environment and the lives of the poorest and, critically, build the agency of the urban poor and their capabilities related to project management and design. The project is directed by a multi-stakeholder advisory committee to the office of the Town Clerk, a body which includes federation members and has proven highly influential in the project’s success to date.
The project demonstrates the potential for inclusive and collaborative energy solutions to combat energy injustice and build greater urban resilience.
Private Sector Collaboration for Energy Justice in Mumbai
As of 2017, the National Slum Dwellers Federation (NSDF) and Mahila Milan in India have organized 694 groups in 81 cities and towns. Home to the oldest national federation in the network, the India SDI Alliance is a critical driver of peer-to-peer exchanges to organize and capacitate federations in Asia and the network at large. This year it became a key organizer of communities looking to find solutions to energy poverty. Success stories of energy-poor communities gaining improved access to renewable, affordable, reliable, and safe electricity through innovative strategies frequently reference rural areas but what of the urban poor communities? How can state strategies for energy security keep pace with the continued expansion of urban populations while at the same time satisfying existing demand? Can the human, financial, political, and environmental assets of the urban poor be harnessed to increase energy security and contribute to city resilience more broadly?
Both Maharashtra State and the Indian Central Government are working hard to incentivize use of renewables in the country’s energy mix. In November 2017, NSDF and Mahila Milan, with their support NGO, SPARC, held discussions with a private sector developer, the state electricity distribution company, and the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA). They agreed to partner on a precedent-setting, community-man- aged pilot project installing grid-connected rooftop solar PV onto government-built, low income city housing projects in Mumbai. This small-scale embedded generation infrastructure will subsidize the energy tariff of the housing’s public utilities, including water pumps, lifts, and corridor lighting, freeing up additional financial resources for use by the cooperative in the maintenance of the buildings. Women from Mahila Milan have been trained in routine maintenance and energy use monitoring of the solar system. Ultimately, the aim is to demonstrate a model that can be locally financed and managed and contribute to energy security and financial resilience for the city at large.
As a result of the community’s organizing power, government cooperation, and the help of the private sector, the India SDI Alliance is aiming to reduce the electricity tariff for some of the poorest apartment dwellers in Mumbai. The aim is to install these systems in four more buildings in Mumbai during the first part of 2018. If the pilot proves successful, there are at least 500 such buildings housing very poor relocated or rehabilitated households in Mumbai that could bene t from replication of this project.
The India slum dweller federation efforts are enhancing city resilience by improving access to affordable clean energy, building skills in poor communities, and supporting multi-stakeholder collaboration.
In the coming weeks, SDI will share the case studies from our 2017 Annual Report titled ‘The Road to Resilience’ here on our blog. Emerging from the field of ecology, ‘resilience’ describes the capacity of a system to maintain or recover from disruption or disturbance. Cities are also complex systems and a resilience framework addresses the inter- connectedness of formal and informal city futures. Moreover, it enables a nuanced reflection on the nature of shocks and chronic stressors – recognising that the latter are particularly acute in slum dweller communities and that this critically undermines the entire city’s economic, social, political, and environmental resilience.
As with personal resilience, city resilience demands awareness, acknowledgment of reality, and a capacity to move beyond reactivity to responses that are proactive, thoughtful, and beneficial to the whole. The most enlightened individuals and cities will be those that understand their responsibility to the most vulnerable and to the planet. Our 2017 Annual Report showcases some of SDI’s achievements over the past year on the road to resilience. Click here for the full report.
Inauguration of Solar Energy Project in Mumbai Slum Housing Project
Success stories in accessing affordable, reliable, and safe electricity for the poor are commonly registered from rural areas but what of the urban poor? There is far less real world success in addressing challenges the poor face in cities across the world, limited understanding of how cities will manage the secure supply of clean and affordable electricity for urban informal communities as urbanisation continues, and less precedent for how urban poor residents can play an important role. That being said, organized urban poor communities affiliated with the SDI network are beginning to demonstrate the critical role of the urban poor in practically contributing to clean energy transitions while simultaneously increasing resilience.
On the 28th of November 2017, Mahila Milan and the National Slum Dwellers Federation of India inaugurated a 12kWp rooftop solar PV system on a large-scale government housing complex in Govandi, Mumbai (SRA Building 11C in Natwar Parikh, Indian Oil Compound). SRA is the Slum Rehabilitation Authority, the state level authority administering a government program that provides housing for Mumbai’s poor. The solar PV system installed at building 11C makes use of enabling net-metering policy and a capital subsidy, incentivizing the tapping of Mumbai’s vast rooftop solar potential. Connected to the grid supply the system imports as well as exports electricity allowing the housing cooperative a saving of around Rs. 1.9 lakhs annually (roughly USD 1500).
Communal facilities supplemented by the newly installed solar PV system include: common area lighting, elevators, and crucially the pumping of water from underground tanks to overhead tanks. These energy costs are conventionally borne by levies paid by the building’s residents. A reduction in the cooperative’s overall electricity bill means more money for maintenance. As with other NSDF managed projects, 100% of routine maintenance of the solar system is done by trained Mahila Milan members.
The Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission aims to position India as a global leader in the production of solar electricity. There’s real momentum in powering the country’s development through an increased use of clean generation sources, reducing carbon as emissions associated with fossil fuel generation.
SDI’s Indian Alliance aims to install these systems in 4 more buildings in Mumbai during the first part of 2018.