Climate Change, Clean Energy and Urban Water in Africa

Promoting Market-Based Deployment of Clean Energy Technology Solutions in Municipal Waterworks: Pilot initiative in South Africa.

The Climate Change, Clean Energy and Urban Water in Africa project, funded by the European Commission, implemented by UNIDO and executed by REEEP, aimed to empower South African municipalities to upgrade their water infrastructure with clean energy and energy efficiency solutions, to reduce energy use, costs and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and improve service delivery.

Water and waste water systems form the core infrastructure that underpins delivery of water and sanitation services in cities. With pumps and other systems running 24 hours a day, they are also among the largest consumers of electricity in municipalities - and therefore generate substantial costs and greenhouse gas emissions. As cities, particularly in the developing world, continue to grow rapidly, demand for water and wastewater services will continue to rise, increasing the pressure on underlying infrastructure. Decisive action is required to manage both the environmental and financial impacts of providing water and sanitation as essential services to growing urban populations.

Clean energy technologies and energy efficiency interventions can dramatically improve efficiency and reduce GHG emissions in urban water and wastewater infrastructure, and do so cost-effectively, with investment payback periods of often only a few years. However, municipalities often lack both the staff capacity and the financial means to plan, fund and implement such interventions.

The project, which wrapped up in July 2019, created pathways to empower municipalities to build capacity, identify appropriate interventions, access finance and ultimately deploy clean energy technologies and systems in their water infrastructure.

The goals and impacts of the project are further explained in the video and text below:

 

Full film: Climate Change, Clean Energy and Urban Water in Africa from REEEP on Vimeo.

Participating Municipalities

The two municipalities participating in this pilot project were !Kheis Local Municipality and Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality. The project’s work with these two municipalities has revealed that, despite the vast difference in population and municipal budgets, they face similar challenges. They could apply similar approaches to overcoming these challenges and successfully implementing clean energy interventions. The best practice advice developed based on experiences in the two municipalities should be useful to most municipalities in the country. In this way, the project has created a solid base for replication across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Activities

The project team developed technical action plans with both pilot municipalities, which, based on detailed energy usage data collected through energy audits, led to the selection of high-impact technical interventions at their waterworks sites. Each municipality also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Cleaner Production Center (NCPC), which joined the project to provide accredited energy training to the municipalities’ technical teams.

Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality

Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality includes Port Elizabeth, South Africa’s sixth largest city and a major industrial hub. The municipality determined that the technical intervention under this project should centre on the Fishwater Flats Waste Water Treatment Works, a large facility first opened in the 1976 which processes 65% of the municipality’s wastewater – 120 million litres per day. An estimated 70% of the energy used by the site is consumed by 70 motors used to aerate sludge – a step in the wastewater treatment process which allows bacteria to filter out organic matter. Running these motors at full speed 24/7 costs over 3.3 million Rand, or approximately 230k USD, per year. The municipality aims, in the medium- to long-term, to replace these ‘mixers’ with fine bubble aeration, a more precise and vastly more efficient method for aerating sludge. In the short term, there are plans to install variable speed drives, dissolved oxygen sensors, which would allow the municipality to run the motors at less than full speed when full speed is not required.

Planning either of these interventions, though, requires granular data on how much energy each motor uses, so that savings can be calculated and investments in upgrades justified. The Fishwater Flats site did not have any way to measure the energy use of its different assets over time, though, and only the site’s total energy use was measured. Through this project, the municipality installed sophisticated energy meters on the sludge mixers and aerators, a significant first step towards making this process much more energy efficient. For the first time, technical staff at the site can now oversee operations and diagnose problems remotely, via an online dashboard. The municipality can build on the data gathered to future-proof Fishwater Flats, increase its resilience to climate change and improve service delivery to its 1.1 million residents.

This has opened our eyes to seeing things differently. Also, it makes things easier for us. We no longer physically have to go into the plant to see, okay, this thing is running, but we can see it in the office.

Xabisa Obong, Engineer, Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality

What you cannot measure, you cannot control. This is the start of measuring the energy usage. […] We have got great hope to manage our energy much more smartly.

Lunga Mahote, Acting Director, Plant Maintenance, Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality

 

!Kheis Local Municipality

!Kheis Local Municipality is a stretched out, sparsely populated municipality on the edge of the Green Kalahari in Northern Cape province. Most of the municipality’s residents live on the banks of the Orange River, which meanders through a fertile green valley that forms a stark contrast with the dusty red of the surrounding desert.

The municipality, which measures nearly 100 km from its northernmost to its southernmost point, and roughly the same east to west, has only a handful of engineers maintaining all infrastructure, including roads, electricity and water provision to its widely dispersed population. Many residents rely on communal taps for drinking water.

The municipality’s technical staff, together with the project partners, identified strategic locations for clean energy interventions. Energy meters were installed at fifteen sites, allowing for remote monitoring of the functioning of different assets and for the remote identification of breakdowns. In addition, ten pumps were replaced with new, energy efficient models. Back-up pumps were installed for pumps that are critical to the water supply, to prevent service interruptions in case of breakdowns. In the past, when a drinking water abstraction pump broke down, it could at times take weeks to source spare parts for repairs, leaving residents without any water at their local tap.

In addition, a community engagement event was held in Groblershoop, !Kheis Local Municipality, to inform the local community of the interventions. As part of this event, educational plays were performed at two local primary schools, teaching hundreds of students about the importance of saving water. The students also produced artworks on the subject of energy and water saving for the event.

We are going to save costs… our pumps will be able to distribute water more efficiently than before.

Desmond Dolopi, Technical Manager, !Kheis Municipality

Stakeholder Engagement

In parallel with the technical work, the project ran an intensive programme of stakeholder engagement events, including five stakeholder roundtables. These roundtables brought together, often for the first time, representatives of different departments in municipalities, the finance sector, private sector technology providers and project partners. Discussion topics included barriers to greater engagement between municipalities and the private sector, and the difficulties municipalities must overcome to implement energy efficiency measures in their water infrastructure. The lessons learned at these roundtables were integrated into the Best Practice Guide, to ensure that the final product is of use to municipalities across the country. The lessons have also been leveraged in a Policy Brief, which provides policy recommendations to the South African government to create an enabling environment for clean energy and support municipalities to procure and fund improvements to their water infrastructure.

 

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