Understanding electricity legitimacy dynamics in an urban informal settlement in South Africa : a community based system dynamics approach

Smit, Suzanne ; Musango, Josephine Kaviti ; Brent, Alan C. (2019)

CITATION: Smit, S., Musango, J. K. & Brent, A. C. 2019. Understanding electricity legitimacy dynamics in an urban informal settlement in South Africa : a Community Based System Dynamics approach. Energy for Sustainable Development, 49:39-52, doi:10.1016/j.esd.2019.01.004.

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Article

The aim of providing affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all requires an in-depth understanding of the issues that affect energy access and energy fuel choice, particularly as related to urban informal settlements or slums. Within unequal societies, such as South Africa, a reliance on technical solutions to address access and inequality is inadequate, leading to resistance and protest. Further, introduction of a technical solution – such as solar PV - to address energy access in urban informal settlements, is a complex process, and requires a systems thinking perspective. Using Community Based System Dynamics modelling, this paper therefore investigated the issues that affect energy fuel choice and energy access as related to the introduction of a renewable energy solution in Enkanini informal settlement. Different energy user groups were engaged in the identification of the factors that affect energy access and energy fuel choice; the relationships between these factors in order to improve future interventions; and development of causal loop diagrams to visualise the key feedback loops. The identified factors were economic and market related such as affordability, availability, and land ownership but also included a range of socio-political aspects. 17 feedback loops emerged, of which 13 were reinforcing loops, and 4 were balancing loops. The key feedback loops relate to community empowerment and representation, whilst participation in the political process and the quest for legitimacy through direct electricity connections were recognised as broader issues to be addressed.

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