Kuyasa Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project: Renewable energy efficient technology for the poor

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Publication Date: 
01 January 2010
Michael Goldman
UN Millennium Development Goal: 
Ensure environmental sustainability

The small scale Kuyasa Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project was developed to retrofit 2,309 low-income houses in the urban township of Kuyasa, Khayelitsha in Cape Town with solar water geysers, insulated ceilings and compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs improving thermal performance of low-income housing units and thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Although South Africa is viewed economically as a developing country, it is a significant carbon polluter and emitter of greenhouse gases, mainly due to its coal-fired electricity generation facilities and large industries. The country has also recently experienced energy shortages and still faces challenges in providing energy to its poorer citizens. In order to address the serious housing problems facing the newly democratically elected government in 1994, a large number of government-subsidised, but energy inefficient, houses were built over the past 15 years.

The Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) offered a way for South Africa to address the thermal inefficiencies of these houses, while rolling out energy efficient technologies as part of the CDM carbon credits facility. The idea developed and registered between 1999 and 2005 was to retrofit 2,309 low-income houses in the urban township of Kuyasa, Khayelitsha, with solar water geysers, insulated ceilings and compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. Although 10 demonstration installations were completed in 2003, implementation and funding model problems saw the project stalled for over two years.

Carl Wesselink, and his brother Pieter, from the South African Export Development Fund (SAEDF), had developed a financing approach for large-scale, solar-water geyser installations and were keen to employ it to complete the Kuyasa CDM project. Their reworked business plan, which included lower solar water geyser costs, greater community participation, and an innovative funding model, was accepted in late 2007.

Wesselink's entrepreneurial drive and social conscience saw the installations get under way in early 2008. An important aspect of his model was the monthly financial contribution from each of the 2,309 households in Kuyasa, for which a simple and sustainable funds collection solution is still being sought. Wesselink has also been working with a new solar water geyser manufacturer in South Africa to overcome the risks associated with the almost-boiling point temperature and quality concerns of existing low-cost solar water geysers. The encouragement for, and support of, a local manufacturer for the required solar water geysers and tempering valves also achieves the import-offset objective of the SAEDF. 

To date, the Kuyasa CDM project has created 87 jobs, completed 1,800 of the 2,309 installations, decreased the amount spent by the poor on energy, and is reducing approximately 2.85 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per low-income house per year. The project has also provided impetus towards the development of a larger-scale 'national sustainable settlements facility' that could see solar water heaters and thermal performance improvements financed and installed across millions of other low income houses in South Africa.

Citation: Goldman, Michael. "Kuyasa CDM Project: Renewable Energy Efficient Technology for the Poor." GIM Case Study No. B070. New York: United Nations Development Programme, 2010