REEEP and Sanedi push for Energy Efficient Housing in South Africa

02-04-2014, Johannesburg, South Africa

REEEP and SANEDI (South African National Energy Development Institute) hosted an exciting workshop in Johannesburg recently covering the status of Energy Efficiency (EE) in the South African housing sector. Participants discussed key challenges and needs, drawing on their experiences in contribution and discussing possible pathways for stimulating forward movement of EE for housing.

REEEP and SANEDI (South African National Energy Development Institute) hosted an exciting workshop in Johannesburg recently covering the status of Energy Efficiency (EE) in the South African housing sector. Participants discussed key challenges and needs, drawing on their experiences in contribution and discussing possible pathways for stimulating forward movement of EE for housing.

Over fifty delegates gathered from key international and local hubs, including government representatives, scientists and researchers, financiers and foundation leaders, international organizations and the private sector, among others. With the international spotlight shining on an energy efficient future for South Africa, key entities such as the Swiss Agency for Development & Cooperation, German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) and the Green Building Council contributed expertise along with private organizations regards achieving EE Housing aims and goals. The group represented the core Champions for Energy Efficiency in South Africa.

A primary theme concerned understanding the potential EE has to empower SA’s low-cost housing sector and its residents, a tool to assist with poverty alleviation. In 1994, the South African Government committed to the Reconstruction & Development Programme (RDP) thus subsidizing the construction thus far, of over of an estimated 2.8m subsidized housing units for low-income beneficiaries. Yet there remains a gross deficit of homeless people with over 2.2 million South Africans awaiting their subsidized house. Compounding the problem, more than half a million middle-income citizens – those earning more than R3,500 per month and thus not qualifying for a 100% subsidized RDP house - are unable to access proper home loan facilities via the normal banking system.

Clear priorities are marked for government to action efforts that ensure faster delivery of RDP homes, and facilitate access to finance for those who qualify. According to international standards it is noted that the SA housing sector is tremendously inefficient, and there is extensive opportunity for improvement and growth. Attending delegate Christian Borchard from the GIZ’s South African-German Energy Programme pointed out that buildings account for 40% of final energy consumption worldwide – they “are the sleeping giant” of the energy challenge. Borchard noted that even South Africa’s efficient buildings, like the SANEDI Head Office in Sandton, would be considered inefficient by German standards.

The challenges to the efficiency issue are myriad, beginning with the reality that in South Africa there are currently no accurate, reliable estimations of energy consumption in buildings. Energy Performance Certification is a good start to kicking off EE complaint Buildings in South Africa.  The EPC is a methodology that is common practice in the European Union (EU) for calculating the integrated energy performance of buildings. Soon to be introduced in South Africa with the support of GIZ, the EPC will prove to be a key tool in measuring and understanding the full extent of the CO2 emissions problem. Energy Performance Certificates, which must be clearly displayed in the reception area of all complaint buildings, have broad impact in data collection and the monitoring process.

Although some steps have been made as part of the country’s National Building Regulations, there remain several sizable gaps in compliance, implementation and monitoring.

Several Provincial and Regional level government municipalities and departments have interests in problem solving housing sector concerns, including the Department of Human Settlements, Dept. of Energy, Dept. of Public Works, Health, Treasury and all Municipalities. However, competencies and responsibilities should be better defined and transparent with a clear chain-of-management established. The lack hereof has resulted in slow decision making and a stop-and-go mentality on various projects.

Positively, the technology to bring about a revolution in Energy Efficient housing is readily available for implementation. Technologies like solar water heaters and heat pumps are already integrated into building regulations, if not always implemented effectively. The policy tools necessary to build a stable green economy and business climate for renewable resources like solar photovoltaic can be learned from other countries that have implemented as such, like Germany. Also, existing examples and templates of how to deliver competitive loans that feature built-in incentives are available through special bank facilities like the German KfW.

Kadri Nassiep, CEO of SANEDI, mentioned “South Africa has a long path to walk in establishing incentives that shift the Nation’s attitude in Energy Efficiency thinking”, a sentiment echoed by other workshop participants. But any efforts must include economic and human angles. Llewellyn van Wyk, Principal Researcher for the Build Environment Unit (Science & Technology) at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSRI) noted that efforts that improve housing must improve the residents comfort and safety – and not only lower kilowatt hours of energy usage per square meter. Comfort and safety will be challenged by future climatic change in the region that will result in increasingly hot and dry conditions and a progression of cyclonic weather events specifically along the East Coast of South Africa.

REEEP’s Andreas Zahner discussed the possibilities of Positive Energy Buildings for South Africa (buildings that PRODUCE more energy than they CONSUME), a main focus area of REEEP’s work in the efficiency sector.

Positive Energy Buildings (PEB’s) are technically viable in most climatic zones of the world and can bring significant co-benefits to society - like improved comfort, air quality, health, and local employment. Cost effective models exist as templates of implementation in emerging economies like Mexico where it’s easier to achieve a positive energy balance due to warmer climes and higher solar irradiation. Mainstreaming Positive Energy Buildings (PEB’s) requires a coordinated effort of new finance models, improved building design & standards plus increased awareness. Sarah Rushmere of the Green Building Council supported the idea, and Pierre Venter of the South African Banking Association noted positive-energy buildings could also work to solve South Africa’s electricity shortages by feeding back into the grid, a reality in many countries but not yet in South Africa.

Sharing and brain-storming to define the future agenda, the workshop participants, are mapping the step-by-step process that will generate a culture and reality of Energy Efficient Homes.
This multi-stakeholder 2-day forum explored translating EE in a South African context, and how to best make progress on the ground.

REEEP looks forward to working with SANEDI, and joining in the motivation of REEEP’s broader initiative – the 1 Billion Square Meters Initiative, aiming for Positive Energy Buildings, co-led by the Global Buildings Performance Network (GBPN).
 

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