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Municipal water supply and wastewater systems operate 24 hours a day and are among the largest consumers of electricity in municipalities. Electricity costs can amount to between 40 and 70 percent of total running costs of municipal water infrastructure. In countries with carbon-intensive electricity grids, water infrastructure consequently generates substantial CO2 emissions.
Clean energy technologies and energy efliciency interventions have already proven to cost-effectively improve efliciency and reduce CO2 emissions in urban water infrastructure. Despite the benefits, these solutions have thus far not been widely adopted by municipalities in low- and middle-income countries. This is due to, among other issues, the high upfront costs of deploying the technology, a lack of appreciation of the benefits by municipalities and a lack of capacity in municipalities to design, install and operate the new technologies.
By accessing private finance and crowding in external funding, municipalities could meet the growing service delivery demand and upgrade their systems by leveraging private-public engagements.

Against this background, a three-year pilot project seeks to catalyse commercial activity to improve energy and water efliciency in South African municipal water and wastewater infrastructure while reducing CO2 emissions. It will do so by creating model pathways to facilitate the cost-effective deployment of clean energy technologies and systems in municipal infrastructure. Besides saving energy and reducing CO2 emissions, the targeted solutions will also support municipalities to save water, improve water quality, improve service delivery and realise cost savings. The project is financed by the European Commission, with UNIDO as Implementation Partner and REEEP as Execution Partner.
The current pilot works with two municipalities in South Africa, Kheis in Northern Cape and Nelson Mandela Bay in Eastern Cape, with a view to creating a solid knowledge base for replication across Sub-Saharan Africa. The project has the following main features:

  • Design and implementation of demonstration and capacity building activities in selected South African
  • Engagement with a broad municipal stakeholder group, including market participants and enablers, to highlight clean energy
  • Innovative monitoring and evaluation and practice-based policy research to compile lessons learned and present practical solutions for clean energy deployment, including the concrete finance and business models behind them.
  • Promotion of replication and scale up

opportunities in South Africa and the Sub-Saharan African region.
The two pilot municipalities have been linked with the South African National Cleaner Production Centre (NCPC). Through its Industrial Energy Efliciency Project, the NCPC offers energy audits and facilitates the implementation of energy management systems in industry. These energy audits will help identify opportunities for energy efliciency and clean energy interventions, and prioritise solutions based on their cost-effectiveness.
In the next phase of the project, the municipalities will receive assistance in applying for additional funding sources to implement infrastructure upgrades, including from the national Energy Efliciency Demand Side Management Programme (EEDSM) and other financial mechanisms.
Another crucial element of the project is Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) as part of the wider replication strategy. REEEP has 15 years’ experience running similar market-building demonstration projects and leveraging lessons learned and market intelligence generated to encourage follow-on investors to enter the space. The MEL strategy for this project has been designed in collaboration with interested investors and other public and private sector stakeholders. REEEP has specific experience in monitoring and evaluating projects within the country’s and region’s policy, financial and commercial environment, to gain insight into market opportunities and barriers and to replicate and scale-up the activities not only within the country and the region but also across the continent.

  By Nicole Algio Regional Secretariat Manager for REEEP Southern Africa since 2012.                                               

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