Solar electrification by the concession approach in the rural Eastern Cape: Phase 1. Baseline Survey

The Energy Research Centre (ERC) at the University of Cape Town is in the final stage of a three year research project monitoring, evaluating and supporting non-grid energy service delivery in three remote rural areas in South Africa. The rural non-grid electrification programme, which was initiated by the South African Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) in 1999, seeks to widen access to electricity. The programme adopted the energy services company (ESCO) model using the fee-for service approach. The ESCO model grants private companies concessions to establish non-grid energy service utilities that install and maintain non-grid technologies for household use, supported by a government subsidy. A team of researchers conducted field studies in three of the five concession areas. These concession areas are located in the north-eastern corner of the KwaZulu Natal Province known as Maputaland, the northern part of the Limpopo Province and in the northern part of the former Transkei in the Eastern Cape Province. Ongoing research in the concession areas has been undertaken since May 2001. One objective of the field research was to assess the initial social impacts and service delivery of the SHSs in the rural communities and communicate the findings to the relevant stakeholders. This report is the first of a series on the impact of solar home systems in three provinces of South Africa. It provides information drawn from interviews with the Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) and the National Electricity Regulator (NER), the non-grid service providers and interviews with 681 households. Part 1 of this report introduces the operations of three energy service providers along the “fee-for-service utility model”. The three initial concessionaires and their customers are the subjects of the research that was conducted by the University of Cape Town. They are EskomShell in the Eastern Cape, Nura in KwaZulu Natal, and Solar Vision in the Limpopo Province.