A new EU-funded pilot initiative for market-based clean energy technologies and services deployment for South African municipal water works was launched last week at an EU Pavilion event at COP22. The event was organised by the UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), the South African Department for Environmental Affairs (DEA), the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) and the European Commission Directorate-General for Climate Action (DG CLIMA).
Municipal water supply and sanitation systems, typically running 24 hours a day, are some of the largest consumers of electricity in cities. This is especially the case in developing countries, where electricity costs can reach up to 40 percent of total operating costs for water and wastewater facilities. These systems are often inefficient and represent a tremendous potential for reducing both costs as well as greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This initiative will invest in pilot projects to maximise the energy efficiency and reduce the GHG emissions of urban water works in South-African cities. Interventions will include optimising pumping and water treatment systems and deploying renewable energy systems to replace coal-fired electricity production. The initiative will link into existing capacity building programmes and institutions, apply rigorous monitoring and evaluation for lessons learnt and promote, replicate and scale the solutions in South Africa itself and in the wider region.
At the EU Pavilion event this afternoon, guests were welcomed by Alois Mhlanga of UNIDO, Karsten Krause of DG CLIMA and Tlou Ramaru of the South African DEA, who said about the initiative: “I am looking forward to the outcomes of this pilot model, to test adequate policies and understand what works to move forward, especially when we consider that more than a third of the municipalities’ energy budgets are spent on water pumps, water treatment and other water resources.”
Martin Hiller, Director General of REEEP, introduced the Climate Change, Clean Energy and Urban Water in Africa Initiative, before a panel, consisting of high-level representatives from the South African DEA, UNIDO, the European Commission and Australia, discussed the way the initiative is anchored in the water and energy strategy of South Africa and the wider region.
The panellists also commented on the crucial role of the private sector and the market to ensure the success and replication of the pilot projects. Alois Mhlanga stressed that “[t]he overall focus of this project is tackling the issue that the private and the public sectors still are not able to engage on many levels. This is why we are trying to catalyse change and identify linkages between the municipalities providing public services and the private sector making money.”
Eric Beaume, representing the European Commission’s DG DEVO, emphasised the importance of good partnerships: “The EU is glad to play a facilitation role in these kinds of projects, which always also rely on strong commitment form the municipalities and the governments of the partner countries as well as the close engagement with the civil society and end consumers. We are looking forward to hearing about the outcomes of this cooperation in order to inform other projects in the region.” Martin Hiller agreed: “The selection of cooperation partners is key to establishing a solid baseline to learn from, as often long term relationships are important in these kinds of partnerships. While we are all expecting to have many success stories to share, there are also valuable lessons to be learnt from failures.”