Climate Change, Clean Energy and Urban Water in South Africa

Fostering innovation and best practices in public water supply and sanitation systems of mid-sized cities.

Water and waste water systems form the core infrastructure that underpins delivery of water and sanitation services in cities. With pumps and other equipment running 24 hours a day, they are also among the largest consumers of electricity in municipalities - and therefore generate substantial costs and CO2 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 capacity and financial means to plan, fund and implement such interventions.

This 2.5-year pilot project seeks to catalyse commercial activity to reduce GHG emissions in municipal water and wastewater infrastructure. It does this by creating pathways to empower municipalities to build capacity, identify appropriate interventions, access finance and ultimately deploy clean energy technologies and systems in their water and waste water infrastructure.

The project is financed by the European Commission, with UNIDO as Implementation Partner and REEEP as Execution Partner. It works directly with two host municipalities in South Africa, and aims to create a solid base for replication across South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Participating Municipalities

The two host municipalities participating in this pilot project are !Kheis Local Municipality and Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality. Our work with these municipalities has revealed that despite vast differences between them in terms of population size, geography and climatic conditions, in important respects they face similar challenges in their attempts to upgrade their water and waste water infrastructure. This suggests that a pathway that is useful to our technical collaborators within both municipalities may also be useful to the large number of other South African municipalities that have expressed interest in the project.

Project Activities

During the project’s inception phase, which ran until July 2017, the two pilot municipalities were selected and engaged. REEEP and its local partners developed technical assistance plans in consultation with both municipalities, which led to the identification of project sites for proposed clean energy interventions. Then, energy audits were carried out within the municipalities to develop a solid baseline for future interventions. The National Cleaner Production Center (NCPC) collaborated closely with REEEP to facilitate the energy audits and provide accredited energy training to the municipalities’ technical teams – a country first for South Africa.

In parallel with the technical work, REEEP has been running an intensive stakeholder engagement programme, including as of June 2018 four stakeholder roundtable events. These roundtables bring together, often for the first time, representatives of different departments in municipalities, the finance sector, private sector technology providers, key industry bodies and national government officials. Discussion topics have included barriers to greater engagement between municipalities and the private sector, the procurement pathways municipalities must navigate to implement energy efficiency measures in their water infrastructure, and sourcing appropriate finance for clean energy interventions. Lessons learned at these roundtables are integrated into a model pathway, that is: a series of actions to help guide the municipal sector to implement EE and CE solutions in its water and wastewater infrastructure. The integration of these lessons serves to ensure that project interventions will be of use to municipalities across the country. The learnings will also be leveraged in policy recommendations to the South African government, which will highlight project learnings to inform policy reform efforts to make it easier for municipalities to procure and fund clean energy improvements to their water and waste water infrastructure.

During the remainder of project implementation, we will continue to work closely with both pilot municipalities to implement fit-for-purpose clean energy and energy efficiency interventions therein and continue our capacity building efforts. We will also publish lessons learned, refine our policy recommendations through ongoing project learnings and host tailored events to help other municipalities across South Africa replicate successful project outcomes.

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REEEP Team
Olivia Coldrey's picture

Olivia Coldrey

Director, Sustainable Finance

REEEP Team
Nicole Algio's picture

Nicole Algio

Regional Secretariat Manager - REEEP Southern Africa Secretariat

REEEP Team
Thomas Duggan's picture

Thomas Duggan

Sustainable Finance Officer