Solar energy in peri-urban areas of Inanda, South Africa : examining attitudes and challenges.
Access to modern energy is central to addressing important global development challenges including poverty, inequality, climate change, food security, health and education. The understanding of the concept of energy poverty is critical when making any attempts to alleviate it. Lack of access to sustainable energy is also a major factor preventing social and economic development, both of which are linked to sustainable poverty reduction. However, worldwide access to energy has shown very slow progress because of the costs associated with electric grid extensions and decentralized systems by which power is offered. This study investigates the viability of implementing solar energy in poor communities in Inanda, which is located in Durban, South Africa. Inanda is known to be an area with high unemployment and high poverty levels. Most important to this study are high energy poverty levels in the area. It was found that these communities prioritised energy for cooking, lighting and heating. The results of this study also indicate that in most households, multiple sources of unsustainable energy sources were being used. These included electricity, fuelwood, gas, paraffin and candles. Illegal electrical connections are a growing problem in this community, and other traditional sources were found to have numerous effects on human and environmental health. Upon investigation of the potential for renewable energy implementation in these communities, it found that there was a high willingness to use it, specifically solar energy; however, more education is needed regarding solar energy and related benefits. It was also indicated that the provision of sustainable energy will allow more time for income-generating activities in the community. The biggest challenge with regard to provision of solar energy was cost. These communities cannot afford to pay high start-up and maintenance costs for the technology. It is for this reason that efforts should be made to subsidize these costs and integrate this plan into policy-making. This will not only provide poor communities with sustainable energy, but also help advance the renewable energy industry in South Africa.