Peoples PoweR (PPR) Project


Cities in South Africa are growing fast in numbers.

Pretoria had a population of 688 000 in 1980, growing to 911 000 in 1990, to 1 084 000 by 2 000 and to almost 1,5 million people in 2010. With a continuous growth rate of 1,02%; Pretoria city is forecasted to be home to 1 604 000 people in 2025 (UN-Habitat, 2008b).

Shack dwelling

With the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, cities in South Africa are growing in two directions. Over the past few decades the number of informal settlements has grown with millions of new residents, while hundreds of gated communities and golf estates have sprung up.

Cities host about half of the world population but is responsible for about 75% of the energy consumption and 80% of the greenhouse gas emissions (Hodson & Marvin, 2009:197).

The need to reduce electricity use in South Africa has been felt acutely in recent years in all communities. Insufficient capital was reserved over the years for new and replacement power stations. The net result is that a steep annual increases in electrical energy costs have already been implemented and it is expected to continue for a number of years. Power outages and/or interruptions may return should electricity savings not be achieved in time.

This is a double slam on poor communities as they are still in the middle of the existing world- wide economic slump which has led to thousands of job losses.

There is thus a dire need to develop workable and affordable programmes to assist with energy savings.

The Peoples PoweR (PPR) Project was initiated in 2009 by Nova to investigate these two issues: how can we reduce the energy consumption and the greenhouse gas emissions in our part of the city? And would it be possible to bring the diverse communities, the informal settlements, the traditional suburbs and the gated communities and golf estates together in the search for ways to become more energy efficient? Is it possible that such a joint effort could promote a sense of common destiny between these communities, a realization that we are interdependent?

The opportunity to initiate the project presented itself when Imtech, a large electrical technology company in the Netherlands, decided in 2009 to make eight of their expert staff available for a whole month, to investigate possibilities to become more energy efficient in three communities: a section of Mamelodi, a township in Pretoria, a section of Garsfontein, a more traditional suburb in the east of Pretoria, about 11 kilometers from Mamelodi, and Woodhill, a golf estate that was erected next to Garsfontein in the past decade.

In their report, the Imtech team showed the following photos that they took in these communities:

Woodhill   Mamelodi

Progress So Far

PPR has developed through three phases:

In 2009, five houses in each of the three communities were visited, an energy audit was done, their electricity usage patterns were analysed and wasteful behaviours and technologies were identified in collaboration with the home owners They were provided with personalised electricity information. Then, action plans were put in place in order to attempt to save electricity. These attempts were quite successful, with savings of up to 20% in some cases, by changing the usage pattern.

Two examples:

1. Many people are not be aware that a fridge with too much ice in, uses more electricity:

A freezer in Garsfontein

2. In some cases, the installation of a timer for the geyser was very successful:

The results of a timer on a geyser

The results of a timer on a geyser

The main finding, however, is that each household is different. Folk knowledge has been indicated as one of the biggest reasons why electricity is wasted. This is indicative of the need for individualised measurements and planning, and interaction within a household, specifically about their electricity use.

These finding were confirmed in 2010, with samples of 25 houses in each community.

In 2011, three local congregations launched projects to see if these interventions can be spread successfully to church members and eventually to the whole congregation.
The home owner is encouraged to automate the saving by means of technology such as motion sensors, timers and added insulation. The compilation of study material for energy auditor training purposes are also necessary, and will be embarked on once clarity on the methodology has been achieved.

Mathilda du Preez, a student in Psychology at the University of Pretoria, has done her research for a doctorate degree in this project. An average of 15% savings was achieved in more than 60 households (global average for comparable approach is 18%).

Future plans

The project can go in different directions from here:

  1. Results so far merit the upscaling of the project to more communities. Plans to do so are presently under discussion
  2. The PPR project has focused on the development of, initially, no-cost to low-cost techniques, practices, methodologies and supportive tools to save electrical energy in households. Such methodologies and tools will eventually be expanded and developed for savings of other energy sources.
  3. The PPR project started with ways to reduce electricity use, and plans to subsequently address local food production and water use, (research in other parts of the world indicates that the purifying and piping of water could make up 30% of a household's carbon footprint - and then 80% of the water is used for gardens and toilets!) Waste management also needs attention: Tsvi Bisk writes in an article "A realistic energy strategy" (The futurist, March-April 2009:21): "Landfills around the world create as much greenhouse gas in the form of methane as all the vehicles in the world. They leak toxic poisons into groundwater and pollute the soil as well as coastal areas..." This must be investigated.
  4. Applications for grants to take the research further are in the process - no success yet to date.