An investigation into using GIS in electrification and network planning in rural KwaZulu-Natal.
Barnard, Jennifer B.
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The South African Government has set a target of universal access to basic electricity by the year 2012. Free basic electricity is defined as the amount of electricity sufficient to provide basic lighting, media access, water heating and ironing with on-grid electricity; or basic lighting and media access for a non-grid system. Eskom Distribution, in conjunction with local municipalities, is responsible for the outstanding electrification predominantly in rural areas. In KwaZulu-Natal, mountainous terrain and scattered settlement patterns of communities complicate the achievement of this goal. This study was aimed at using GIS to address the urgent need to plan electrification, firstly by identifying areas that need electrification and secondly by prioritising those areas according to set principles. Electrification areas were effectively identified and prioritised from both a need and capability of supply aspect. The study then aimed at designing the shortest networks from the grid to those identified electrification areas. To determine electrification areas spatially, electoral areas (EAs) demarcated as rural during the run up to the 1994 elections were used to identify rural areas; and Ethekwini Metropolitan Municipality, current electrification projects, reserves and a buffer zone around existing transformers excluded. Household point data was used to polygonize the remaining area, and those polygons were aggregated on their calculated area to create future rural electrification areas (FREA). A points and weighting system; based on one initially used in Namibia and further developed in an electrification planning model by RAPS Consulting, CSIR and DME to prioritise villages for electrification; was applied to calculate point scores for each FREA and other criteria such as distance from a network with capacity considered to determine a prioritised list of FREA that can be electrified immediately. Roads, land cover, household positions and slope were used to design the shortest path from the grid to the three highest scoring FREA. Each layer was reclassified, ratings applied and the layers combined to successfully determine the final path in terms of the criteria used. Interest in using GIS for spatial planning has led to a GIS Initiative Group (GISIG) being formed at Eskom Distribution in Eastern Region to address data collection, co-ordination of planning, tools written previously but never implemented being re-evaluated and, more recently, new tools being designed. However, much is still needed in terms of research, resolving of data quality issues, testing of points and weighting systems, and for functionally independent sections to work together on making changes to age-old system structures and processes before any of the recommendations resulting from this study can be effectively implemented.