V-LED Dialogue Event on Low Carbon Cities in Cape Town


On May 27 a vertical dialogue event will bring together representatives of local and national governments in Cape Town to discuss: Low Carbon Cities of the Future – what will facilitate a systemic change?

The context

Last year Sustainable Energy Africa conducted the study City Wide Mitigation Potential for South Africa. The research examines the energy profile and carbon mitigation potential of 27 South African cities including the 8 large metros. Those cities consume 40% of the country’s energy and account for 43% of carbon emissions. Energy future modelling shows that by continuing on a business as usual trajectory, energy consumption will double by 2034 and emissions will also increase exponentially over this time, even with the planned renewable energy roll-out in South Africa. The study looked at alternative scenarios that included energy efficiency in all sectors and the introduction of local electricity generation from large-scale renewable energy to small-scale embedded generation (rooftop PV). All of the interventions modelled including a focus on energy access, are feasible and have economic, social and environmental benefits for the cities resulting in a 38% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050.

The opportunity

It is clear that cities hold substantial power and opportunity to transform the energy profile of South Africa. Indeed the national energy trajectory cannot be changed without transforming the cities, and at the policy level some cities have had already set ambitious goals.

The challenge

While there are many promising initiatives that are setting South Africa on a path towards sustainable low-carbon development, the significance of systemic change remains. The overall legislative, regulatory and institutional context at the city level needs to be addressed. The decision to enable cities to generate electricity or buy from independent power producers (IPPs) is possible to put into practice but depends on cabinet and ministerial decisions.  Related to this are the revenue models cities operate under and how their revenue base becomes constrained as more people turn to embedded PV generation and improved efficiency. The reliance on cross-subsidies in the tariff to fund adequate electricity supplies for the poor is also a systemic problem.

The question

The intention of this dialogue event is to engage with current processes and thinking and to build on current initiatives. Our questions for this first of a series of three round-table discussions are:

  • How do cities overcome these barriers or challenges in order to move towards a lower carbon trajectory while maintaining access and encouraging investment and economic development?
  • What would need to shift in the institutional-regulatory environment (given constitutional constraints) and how could this be achieved?
  • How can cities change their business or revenue models?
  • What would it take to facilitate a shift in the regulatory and revenue environment?
  • What system would work, and which opportunities arising from the rapid technology changes, and financial challenges, within the current national agenda?

Date: Friday May 27, 10.00 - 13:30 including lunch

Location: High Constantia, Cape Town, South Africa