A comparative assessment of the socio-economic and spatial factors impacting the implementation of renewable energy in marginalised communities: the case of Inanda and Bergville.
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Access to modern, safe and cost effective energy is undisputed in its ability to facilitate development among poor countries, however, achieving energy security is plagued by challenges. Renewable energies and technologies have been described to address multiple needs and is implemented widely in developing contexts. However, the implementation of renewable energy sources and technologies are rarely guided by an understanding of community and household socio-demographic and energy profiles. Although South Africa displays high levels of electrification, many poor communities fail to sustain their use of modern sources such as electricity due to costs. This results in fuel-switching which is associated with the use of fuels such as fuelwood and paraffin, and raises health and safety concerns, in relation to the health of women and children in particular. Similarly, literature establishes the linkages between income, level of education, household size and reliance on specific energy sources. More importantly, studies show that energy profiles and willingness to adopt renewable energy sources is also influenced by factors such as culture, tradition and energy policy. Additionally, there is a dearth of empirically based studies that profile household energy practices, attitudes and perceptions. This study adopted a comparative approach in examining household energy profiles, practices and needs in relation to peri-urban (Inanda) and rural (Bergville) communities in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. A mixed methodological approach was adopted, and 800 households (400 in Inanda and 400 in Bergville) were profiled in relation to socio-economic conditions, energy profiles, and attitudes and perceptions of renewable energy sources. These findings were complemented by two focus group discussions (one in each of the communities), involving specific activities, including participatory mapping exercises. The households for the survey interviews were chosen using a multi-stage, spatially-based random sampling approach. The focus group discussion participants were purposively chosen. Results show that households and respondents from both communities display significant socio-economic and energy-related stressors, however, these effects are more pronounced within Bergville. The differences in household size and income between Bergville and Inanda resulted in significantly different energy behaviours. Households in Bergville show a higher reliance on collected, cheaper energy sources, for example, fuelwood and dung while Inanda households preferred paraffin, gas and electricity. This study also shows that household income and size, and respondents level of education, sex and employment status influenced level of awareness of renewable energy sources. Furthermore, the simulated indicators demonstrate that increases in household income are associated with an upward progression on energy ladders, specifically the increased consumption of and expenditure on modern sources of energy. Although awareness of renewable energy sources was limited, respondents did indicate a willingness to adopt and pay for technologies such as solar panels and cookers. Nevertheless, both groups of respondents associated the use of renewable energies with the idea of being poor. These strong socio-cultural factors may also prevail as potential obstacles in the up-take and use of renewable energy technologies. Additionally, respondents highlighted their reluctance with solar water heaters as they only meet one of their many energy needs. Concern was also raised in relation to the up-take of solar thermal cookers, specifically regarding its size. In this regard, energy policy needs to implement technologies that offer multiple energy services. A key finding of this study is that renewable energy technologies have significant potential in alleviating the energy-related stressors and lived experiences of energy poverty amongst the Bergville and Inanda communities. Moreover, targeted awareness campaigns may also improve the sustained use of these technologies. A key contribution of this study is the establishment of a conceptual model to inform the implementation of renewable energy and associated technologies within the rural and peri-urban contexts of South Africa.