Planning tools for supporting threshold countries

Research in focus January 2013

Heating or food? A warm meal or a heated home? "Many people who are part of the lowest income group in South Africa can only afford the bare essentials of life as the cost of living is similarly high as in Germany," declares engineer Simon Wössner, manager of the Design Tools working group at the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics IBP. At present, the country at the southernmost tip of Africa covers 93 percent of its continuously growing energy demand by imported coal. As a consequence, South Africa ranges among the largest producers of greenhouse gases. This situation confronts the African government with a great challenge, namely to ensure a stable, sustainable and efficient energy supply while considering environmental and economic factors. Germany, being a pioneer in the field of energy research, is now to support the rainbow nation in facing this challenge. Besides merely providing know-how, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has launched the "MegaCities" research exchange project. A sub-project to ensure sustainable energy supply is entitled "Energy as a key element of sustainable transformation" ("EnerKey" in short), with Fraunhofer IBP's Department of Energy Efficiency and Indoor Climate being involved as one of the lead managing institutions, alongside the universities of Stuttgart and Johannesburg, the cities of Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni and Pretoria (Tshwane), South Africa's energy provider and several non-governmental organisations (NGO’s). The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding this project, which has an overall volume of four million euros.

"With our contribution to the 'EnerKey project' we try to consult South Africans in all issues related to energy management, and most of all, to raise people's consciousness for the resource conserving use of energy, which is why we have developed the 'EnerKey Performance Certificate'", Simon Wössner explains. In a voluntary initiative, the City of Johannesburg had the energy performance quality of city-owned buildings certified and has thus now become the first South African city to receive an energy performance certificate. Scientists of the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics IBP developed the calculation tools required for this purpose. Accompanying measures like intensive, on-site training of building managers and involvement of decision makers are designed to support the area-wide implementation in the target region. On the one hand, Fraunhofer IBP provides the know-how that is necessary to introduce South Africans to energy efficiency knowledge, on the other hand, Fraunhofer IBP also requests political decision makers to press ahead with the introduction, implementation and use of energy performance certificates for public buildings. Moreover, this data shall be made available to researchers and decision makers who are involved in the energy management sector.
In the scope of the EnerKey project, so-called "Energy Detectives Clubs" were founded in South Africa. These clubs are comparable to study groups (AGs) as commonly found in German schools. Soweto Secondary School in Soweto/Johannesburg has been particularly active in supporting a great many campaigns. The "Energy Detectives Clubs" aim to reduce the energy consumption of schools and to increase indoor comfort. "We want young students to become aware of energy issues as early as possible. For example, one of the newly introduced measures was to turn off the lights in unoccupied spaces - so far, it has been common practice in South Africa that the caretakers turn on the lights in the morning and turn them off in the evening," Fraunhofer's energy expert describes the daily routine in government buildings, and continues: "South African pupils and students are also looking for sponsors to procure foliage plants for their classrooms, as such plants will significantly improve the indoor climate." Threshold countries in particular are characterized by enormously fast growing towns and cities, which will be turning into the megacities of tomorrow within very short time. The team of scientists led by Simon Wössner investigated the South African Region of Gauteng as the cities of Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, and Pretoria keep spreading every year, tending to merge into a megacity with around ten million inhabitants. It is the aim of this project to dramatically reduce (and render more efficient) the energy need of this metropolitan area. "We endeavour to provide a sustainable strategy to ensure the efficient energy development and energy supply of the Greater Gauteng area," Simon Wössner explains. "In doing so, we have to consider both cultural and political factors of influence." Besides socio-economic factors, specific local conditions also play an important role. "For instance, it is not possible to establish a European infrastructure in South Africa; instead, it is very important to find regional adaptations to the given local situations," Simon Wössner describes the country-specific challenges of this project. Another growing problem are the social imbalances in the rainbow nation. The gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen. In addition, South Africa is characterized by the highest Gini coefficient: 63.1 in 2009 (compared to a value of 29.1 for Germany in 2009). The Gini coefficient is a measure for the inequitable distribution of income. The values of the coefficient range between 0 and 100 percent. (Note: the more inequitable the distribution, the bigger is the difference in the income distribution.)
With its housing project, the South African government tackles two tasks, namely clearing slums and implementing the "right to housing". At the same time, this is a strategy to combat the existing inequality. Thanks to the so-called Rapid Development Programme (RDP), every year homes are built whose purchase price is mostly below 9,000 euros. With the aid of the RDP, about 2.8 million units were raised in 14 years. However, these buildings are not optimal in terms of energy performance unless relevant factors of building physics are considered. A sustainable, efficient, and long-term energy supply can only be realized if the entire people of South Africa - that is all of the four existing income groups - will unite to make a joint investment for the rainbow nation's future. Nevertheless, people have different motivations: while the upper income groups tend to reduce CO 2 emissions, the lower income groups want to employ energy efficiency to be able to "afford the cost of living".
Apart from the very divergent income groups, the political and cultural situation poses yet another problem as the transformation is strongly influenced by the socio-political and cultural environment. "It is definitely not possible to transfer European technology by simply imposing South African culture. Let's take a look at serial houses, for instance. In Germany, serial houses are well established. In South Africa, however, specific customs and traditions make it very difficult to implement this type of construction." In this way, researchers are also required to integrate cultural aspects in their work, in addition to taking account of the political and societal situation.
"We attach particular importance to the transfer of sustainable knowledge in the field of energy management, as our common objective of the 'EnerKey project' can only be realized through precise information of on-site technical staff and local decision makers," Simon Wössner is convinced. By developing the "EnerKey Performance Certificates" Fraunhofer IBP takes on a key role, as the energy industry uses energy performance certificates to reduce CO 2 emissions. Thus Fraunhofer IBP can support the country at the Cape of Good Hope in its efforts to improve life for its people – at least with regard to energy supply.

More Information

Home Research in Focus

All contributions at a glance