This is thanks to their electrical geysers being replaced with solar water heaters, and having insulated ceilings and energy-efficient light bulbs installed in their homes as part of the groundbreaking city-owned Kuyasa Project.
Having kicked off in May last year, the project has recently passed the half-way mark and is expected to reach 2,309 homes by early 2010.
Not only is the project reducing residents’ electricity bills, reducing the need for paraffin-fired heaters and stoves, and providing 76 jobs for the local community, it is reducing global warming carbon emissions from coal-fired power stations.
As such, it is the first African project to be registered with the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) under the Kyoto Protocol and can sell carbon credits on the international market.
Plans are for future sales of the carbon credits to be used to establish a trust which would employ local residents to provide ongoing long-term maintenance on the solar water heaters.
The R20 million project, which was developed by non-profit organisation SouthSouthNorth for the City of Cape Town’s environmental management department, has potential to effect the larger economy too.
Up until very recently all the solar water heaters used in the project have been imported from China.
But the South African Export Development Fund (SAEDF), the private company that has financially underwritten it, has hopes that Kuyasa’s success may lead to locally-manufactured solar water heaters being fitted to the approximately two million other low-cost homes in South Africa.
SAEDF sustainability division head Carl Wesselink said the strategic thinking was that the success of the Kuyasa Project would create a “massive uptake of demand”, giving local manufacturers the incentive to bring costs down.
“The people manufacturing solar water heaters (in South Africa) are targeting Mrs Jones in Constantia,” said Wesselink. But the SAEDF wanted to “promote social service delivery where there is much greater demand”.
And it appears their strategy is paying off; the locally manufactured Xstream solar water heater is now available at a cost which rivals the Chinese Genergy heater, and installation of the local product in the remaining Kuyasa homes has recently begun, said Kuyasa site manager Zuko Ndamani.
The project, which has received funding from the provincial housing department, International Association of Local Governments (ICLEI), and the national Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT), also has undeniable microeconomic benefits and has “dramatically” changed the nature of an otherwise marginalised area on the extreme eastern edge of the city, said Ndamani.
“It has brought together the community, something you don’t necessarily see in the townships. You normally only see that Ubuntu thing in the rural areas,” said Ndamani.
He said part of the reason for the sense of community and safety was that the workmen needed to gain access to the houses in order to install the insulated ceilings and change light bulbs. Therefore if people needed to be away at work they would entrust their keys to neighbours and ask them to move furniture out. This fostered trust and co-operation.
He said the buy-in from residents was such that the site office had no security guard or alarm. If anything went wrong residents would phone him.
He said he even got calls if residents spotted that workmen had left tools or materials lying around after the end of the workday. Initial fears of vandalism had also proved to be completely groundless.
- West Cape News