South Africa: Household Energy Demand and Use

This country synthesis report is based on a detailed country report, which may be accessed through our dynamic report builder is available [http://www.sparknet.info/goto.php/preformatted/country.htm|here]. !!Contents: A ((SouthAfricaCountrySynthesis|Household Energy Demand and Use in South Africa)) B ((SouthAfrica_HouseholdEnergySupply| Household energy supply)) C ((SouthAfrica_HouseholdEnergySectorGovernace| Household energy sector governance)) D ((SouthAfrica_HouseholdEnergyInformation| Household energy information)) E ((SouthAfrica_HouseholdEnergyCaseStudies| Household energy case studies))


A. Household energy demand and use

A.1 Introduction

This section provides an overview of the available data on household energy use in South Africa from the demand side. It is based on data from the 1996 Census plus a number of other surveys carried out by local researchers and international development agencies. The Census took a supply side perspective, to establish what type of energy (fuel) households used for cooking, heating and lighting. (see http://web.uct.ac.za/depts/cssr/resource/census/census96/pdf for the original survey questionnaire). Other surveys have tried to broaden the type of data collected, for example, the SALDRU survey asked who is responsible for collecting wood, how long it takes to collect wood, and what households spent on each of the fuels used.

The 1996 Census gave the number of households in South Africa as 9059571, which by the end of 2002 it was estimated that currently there are at about 10 million. A majority of these households, approximately 57% can be classified as low-income, and most of them are based in rural areas where the living conditions are still considerable poor. The focus of this report is on low-income households.

Households in South Africa cook at least twice a day, except in areas where there are food scarcities, energy shortages or labour shortages (no one to actually do the cooking), here cooking may only take place once a day (Palmer Development Consulting, 2001). The most common method of cooking is boiling, and often involves staple foods that take a long time to cook. The most common types of food cooked are maize meal, samp and beans, vegetables and meat.

A.2 Cooking

Households cook at least twice a day, except in areas where cooking may only take place once a day due to food scarcities, energy shortages or labour shortages (no one to actually do the cooking). The most common method of cooking is boiling, and often involves staple foods that take a long time to cook.
Low-income households use a variety of energy forms for cooking: electricity paraffin, woodfuel, coal, LPG, cow dung, and other biomass fuels such as crop residues (PDC 2001). Charcoal use is not common in South African low-income households. Solar cookers are at the demonstration stage in South Africa and so no long term data are available on use and attitudes. There is a prevalence of multiple fuel use (Mehlwana et al. 1996, Mehlwana et al. 1998, Jones et al 1996, White 2000). Consequently, to reflect the range of fuels, there is a wide variety of cooking devices: braziers, paraffin wick and pressure stoves, wood/coal stoves, open fire using three legged pots, LPG stoves, electric stoves particularly hotplates.

The 1996 Census provided a first attempt to give a comprehensive insight into household energy since the ANC led democratic government came into power in 1994. Based on the Census results, 22.8% of low-income households use wood for cooking. Highest wood consumption is recorded in the three poorest provinces namely Northern Province, KwaZulu Natal and Eastern Cape all of which have high density rural settlement patterns and extremely impoverished socio-economic conditions. For example, about 64 % of households in Northern Province use wood for cooking compared with less than 1% in Gauteng Province. Kerosene (paraffin) is nearly as popular as wood for cooking with 21.4% of low-income households using this fuel. Many people find it expensive to cook with electricity so it is used with caution; despite this perception of cost, an estimated 20% of households using electricity for cooking is low-income. Nationally about 47% of low-income households are reported to use electricity for cooking, but a majority of these households fall into the middle/high income category. The perception that electricity is expensive when used for cooking and space heating has probably been facilitated by the use of prepayment meters, which allow people to monitor their energy consumption. Less popular cooking fuels are coal (10.4%) and LPG (3 %).

Three barriers to the use of household fuels have been identified; availability, cost and negative perceptions of the fuel. Availability is an issue for wood, LPG, coal and kerosene. Availability of LPG is a problem of access. Women find the cylinders too heavy to carry and without their own means of transport they need male assistance for portering. If there are no men in the household or they are unwilling to help, LPG ceases to be an option. Financial cost, both of fuels (LPG, kerosene and electricity) and appliances, is a significant barrier to fuel switching to cleaner or more efficient commercial fuels. For example, with LPG, people who want to use larger cylinders have to pay a deposit (between 7.5 and 8.5 Euro depending on location) for these bottles. Electrical cooking appliances are expensive; as a result, many newly electrified households either buy second hand appliances or rely on two-burner hotplates (which have short lifetimes). End-users also have a number of negative perceptions about different fuels. These negative perceptions range from health and safety, to cleanliness and lack of convenience. Kerosene, wood and coal are smoky fuels which are associated with indoor air pollution linked to respiratory problems and eye irritation. Kerosene fumes are particularly problematic for asthmatics. With regard to safety, the danger of asphyxiation or explosion causes LPG to be feared by many low-income households particularly amongst non-users. Furthermore, the popular wick stoves, which are commonly found in low-income households, are associated with fires and burns. Lastly, coal, in addition to the smoke and its hazards, is considered to be dirty and inconvenient for cooking because it takes time to ignite and leaves black residue on the hands.

A.3 Space heating

Space heating is a significant energy service in colder parts of the country and the number of households using coal doubles during the winter months. Fuels used for space heating in low-income households include kerosene (paraffin) (14.3%), coal (8%), wood (26.6%), LPG (approximately 1%), and electricity (44.4%) (which is mainly used by middle and high income households) (Percentages based on 1996 Census data). Low-income rural households are unlikely to use grid electricity for space heating for cost reasons. The use of coal is mainly confined to areas near to the mines (extensively in Free State, Gauteng, and Mpumalanga and, to a lesser extent, Kwazulu Natal and North West Provinces) (Qase 2000; Lloyd 2001).

Space heating is often a by-product of cooking (Banks et al 1999). Paraffin heaters are generally used for space heating and cooking (especially for simmering and baking). In some cases, people place a metal sheet on top of the paraffin stoves to disseminate heat into the house. Similarly, coal stoves are used simultaneously for cooking, space heating and water heating. Dedicated space heating appliances are mainly electric and LPG heaters.

Three barriers to using less polluting fuels have been identified; availability, cost and negative perceptions of the fuel. Availability is a particular constraint to the use of wood and coal in some areas. Cost of both the fuel and appliances are constraints for the use of LPG and electricity. Electricity is perceived to be too expensive to use for space heating as a result when it is used, low-income households tend to exercise caution, for example, an electric heater will be switched on for a limited time. Alternatively, households opt to use alternatives such as paraffin and preferably wood where is available at no direct financial cost.

The need for a dedicated appliance is another cost constraint for LPG and electricity use since many low-income households prefer to economise by combining space heating with other activities such as cooking, baking or water heating. . End-users also have a number of negative perceptions about different fuels used for space heating. Paraffin fumes irritate the eyes and the smoke from coal has negative health effects. Some people believe that electric heaters are not "warm enough" (that is, they cannot heat up a large area) compared to LPG and paraffin heaters.

A.4 Hot water

Fuels used for water heating are the same as the cooking fuels, namely paraffin, wood, coal, electricity, and LPG (Banks et al 1999). Warm or hot water may be required for washing dishes and clothes, and for personal hygiene. However, in low-income households, people often make do with far less hot water (compared to high income households) because of energy, water or income scarcity ( Energy and Development Group 1998; Qase 2000).
Hot water is also required in small enterprises such as for cleaning freshly slaughtered chickens and cleaning and cooking sheep heads.

Options for water heating include large containers heated on an open fire or stove, water jackets incorporated into some stoves, donkey boilers, gas, electric and solar water geysers. Very few electric geysers are used in low-income households and extremely unlikely in rural areas. Gas geysers are also not found in the low-income market while solar hot water heaters are still in the experimental phase in some of the townships. The cost of solar water heaters in a low-income market and the need to develop a supply and maintenance infrastructure mean that it will take time before solar water heaters can be taken up by rural households.

Washing machines are an alternative to the more cumbersome methods for clothes washing. However, to date there is an imperceptible level of ownership of washing machines in low-income rural households, and a negligible percentage in low-income urban households.

Three barriers to using fuels for water heating have been identified: availability, cost and convenience. With regard to convenience, preparing a wood or coal fire takes time, therefore in order to save time, people may opt to use kerosene, LPG or electricity. At the same time when large quantities of hot water are required, wood and coal are the preferred options because they can be cheaper. Paraffin stoves are not suitable for heating large quantities of water e.g. for washing clothes, because these stoves are not stable enough to hold large and heavy pots. This means that if there are no other alternatives to paraffin, users are forced to heat the required amount of water in small quantities several times, which can be burdensome for the user.

Availability of appliances also influences fuel use for water heating, for example, LPG and electric hot water geysers are not common in South African low-income households, particularly in rural areas. Generally, LPG and electricity are used primarily for rapid heating or cooking in low-income households; electric kettles are popular for heating small quantities of water for bathing and for rapid boiling of water for hot beverages. Urns, as an alternative to geysers, are not commonly used at the moment, probably because of the cost barrier.

A.5 Lighting

Fixed indoor and external lighting can meet most needs, however, it is useful to have portable lighting sources for work areas, to take into a bedroom or other dwelling within the homestead, or to service outdoor cooking/entertainment areas. Good (outdoor and indoor) lighting is particularly important for learners, teachers etc for reading and writing at night. Security is another valuable attribute associated with lighting. For instance, women believe that outdoor lighting enhances personal safety at night. Similarly small enterprise operators, most of whom are women, prioritise electricity for security in the evening and for extending daily operating hours. In many cases however, rural areas do not have the privilege of street lighting, as a result households use their own outside lights in order to achieve at least a minimum level of lighting.

A range of energy sources is used for lighting (i.e. candles, paraffin, LPG, batteries, solar energy, and grid electricity) (Banks et al 1999) and low-income households frequently use more than one source even in households that have grid or solar electricity. The widespread availability of affordable candles and kerosene mean that, unlike in many other low-income households throughout Africa, people do not have to rely on the open fire as their main lighting source. Similarly, dry cell battery operated torches do not provide general house lighting but are used by most households occasionally. At the time of the 1996 Census, 28.8 % of households used candles and 12.7% used kerosene (paraffin) for lighting. The widespread use of candles can be attributed to their accessibility and the absence of any associated appliance requirements. There is no evidence to the contrary that all the households with grid electricity, use it for lighting. However, the extent of use will vary, depending on household access to house wiring, lighting fixtures and light bulbs. It is also likely that many electrified households continue to use other sources of energy for lighting.

There is a wide range of appliances used to produce light: paraffin wick lamps, paraffin lamps with mantles, pressure lanterns, LPG lights using a mantle, torches powered by dry cell batteries, DC incandescent or fluorescent lights, and lights operated from car batteries or small solar, or other DC power, systems, and grid connected incandescent and fluorescent lights.

A number of factors influence decision making about which type of lighting source to use. Electricity easily displaces candles and paraffin for lighting because the light from electric lamps is of a superior quality. It is possible that by now the proportion of low-income households using candles and/or paraffin as their primary source for lighting is less than the figures from the 1996 Census due to the increase in the number of households connected to grid electricity and those that have received solar home systems.

House wiring seems to be the main barrier preventing low-income households from totally abandoning candles and kerosene for electric lights. Newly electrified households are provided with one fixed light fitting and householders have to provide the wiring for other rooms. The cost of this wiring is proving to be a barrier to the transition to more efficient energy sources (Mehlwana et al 1996; Qase 1998).

Cost is also a barrier to the use of LPG for lighting. Paraffin lamps, candles and electricity are more competitive than LPG for lighting even though both kerosene and candles have health and safety costs, as already indicated. In addition, the glass shades for paraffin lamps break easily, and replacing them can prove to be very costly. (It is impossible to not handle glass shades as these often need to be cleaned after use, to remove soot or smoke residue from burning paraffin). However, these disadvantages seem not to deter low-income households from using either paraffin lamps or candles, maybe due to lack of alternatives or inability to afford conversion requirements for other fuel options. Where there is no electricity, the fuel choice for lighting is mainly confined to paraffin and candles, both of which are unsafe and costly. This situation is very dynamic and fluid, as many households avoid the use of candles because of their association with fires, while many others avoid using paraffin due to concerns about the cost of replacing glass shades. Fuel related fires affect both rural and urban households, but the spread of fires when it breaks out in rural areas is minimal due to low density of dwellings.

A.6 Refrigeration and space cooling

Refrigeration is required for the storage of perishable products such as meat and vegetables. Access to refrigeration allows householders to buy perishable products in bulk which saves money and time, especially since many low-income households in South Africa live far from the supermarkets or large chain stores which offer lower prices. Space cooling is a significant priority in hot and humid areas even though many low-income households cannot afford this service.

The main fuels used for refrigeration (both fridges and deep freezers) are electricity, LPG and paraffin. Electricity is the preferred choice for refrigeration, which is supported by the fact that immediately after getting access to grid electricity, householders who have LPG or paraffin refrigerators often switch over to electrical refrigeration. LPG is popular in non-electrified areas. For example, a survey of 120 households in non-electrified rural areas in KwaZulu-Natal (Siqakatha and Mbila/Mabaso tribal authorities) found 23 households using LPG for refrigeration (Aitken 2001). Paraffin fridges in contrast are considered to be less reliable.

The cost of acquiring cooling and refrigeration appliances is prohibitive and acts as a barrier to low-income households being able to make use of this energy service. Like any other expensive appliances, most people have to buy these appliances second hand or use hire purchase (HP) to get brand new appliances. To be able to buy goods on HP, one has to have a good credit record or have a stable income preferable through formal employment. Since unemployment is high, and most people, especially in low-income households, generate income from self-employment, getting access to HP is rather impossible. It is also difficult to find some electrical appliances in rural areas. Furthermore, there are no agents who can do repairs to broken or faulty appliances in most rural areas.

A.7 Communications and entertainment services

Communication and entertainment services are generally required to keep in contact for both social and business purposes with relatives, friends and colleagues located in different areas. Media communication is also useful for keeping abreast of world events, sports etc.; hi-fis (music systems) are also used during celebrations. Radio communications are used in many rural areas, and are particularly useful for rural clinics where there is no access to a telecommunication network.

A survey in 2002, by University of Cape Town, found that nationally about 70% of low-income households use grid electricity for communications and entertainment (UCT 2002). However, since grid electricity is still not available to almost 50% of rural homes, these non-electrified households use batteries (both lead acid and dry cell). At the same time some electrified households continue to use battery operated radios because they do not have access to DC adaptors.

Cost and convenience are the main constraints to further use of batteries for this energy service. Dry cell batteries do not last long, and are considered expensive. In order to reduce costs, and prolong the lifetime of dry cell batteries, many low-income households use these sparingly, for example, people will listen to important broadcasts such as news bulletin, stories, and sport.
Lead acid batteries are inconvenient due to the frequent requirement for them to be re-charged. They are heavy to carry to and from the re-charge stations. In some cases, the re-charging stations are located far away from homes in small urban centres and people require transport to get there. Furthermore, it is often not possible for the batteries to be re-charged during weekends, causing a great deal of frustration among the users.

Inadequate information about how to convert from using batteries to mains electricity or sometimes access to inverters are among the constraints reported for increased access to communication and entertainment services.

A.8 Household appliances

Some labour saving devices commonly found in middle income households could also be used for income generating purposes based in the household. Examples of appliances in this category are: food processors; hairdryers; washing machines; vacuum cleaners; sewing machines; and toasters/sandwich makers. Although household appliances are required and are often found in low-income households, there are no studies as yet that quantify their distribution. Most studies concentrate on basic services, with many of these additional household appliances mostly being perceived to be 'luxury items'. Most of the appliances use grid electricity.

Availability of electricity is the main barrier in non-electrified rural households. In electrified rural and urban households, the main barrier is the energy/appliance cost. Given the trade off between women's labour and some of these labour saving devices such as washing machines, vacuum cleaners, and food processors, most low-income households opt to use the 'free' labour of women and children.

A.9 Energy for micro-enterprises

Micro-enterprises are needed to generate income either as a sole source or as a supplement to other household income.
Common types of enterprises include the sale of cooked food, cold soft drinks, ice cream or ice licks, cold beer, home brewed beer, freshly slaughtered chickens, fresh meat, spaza shop operations (small village or township level retailers specializing on selling basic commodities), hair and beauty salons, welding, and battery charging stations.

Micro-enterprises use a variety of fuels: Coal, Wood, LPG, electricity, and paraffin.

Open drums are used as cooking utensils to heat large quantities of water on open fires for chicken plucking etc; and half cut drums are used to braai/grill meat for sale, blow torches (paraffin or LPG powered) are used for such diverse enterprises from welding to cleaning sheep heads. Other appliances used include stoves, refrigerators and hair dryers (for salons).

Electricity, where available, is seen as either too expensive and/or the quality of service is too poor to provide a reliable input for income generation activities (Qase 2000).

A.10 Summary and conclusions

Household energy needs in South Africa are met by a variety of fuels: electricity (grid, solar, dry cells, lead acid batteries), paraffin, woodfuel, coal, LPG, cow dung, and other biomass fuels such as crop residues. However, unlike in many other low-income households throughout Africa, in South Africa kerosene (paraffin) is nearly as popular as wood for cooking with around 21% of low-income households using kerosene as opposed to approximately 23% using wood. Geographical location, as well as income, are strong determinants of fuel use: low-income households in densely populated rural areas use fuelwood, while near the coal fields coal is popular.

South Africa has a high demand for both space heating (due to altitude and a cold winter season) and space cooling. While many low-income households cannot afford the energy and appliances for cooling, they do use energy for heating. Interestingly the number of households using coal doubles during the winter months.

Low-income households often make do with far less hot water (compared to high income households) because of energy, water or income scarcity which has negative consequences for health (personal hygiene, unboiled water, insufficiently cooked food).

Lighting both inside and outside the home is particularly valued for the feeling of security it generates. Households are prepared to provide their own external lighting, particularly in rural areas. Women believe outdoor lighting enhances personal safety at night. Small enterprise operators value lighting because it protects their property from theft, while it also allows them to operate for extended hours. When electricity becomes available in an area, households switch to electric lighting for its quality except where house wiring is a barrier. It is assumed that all the electrified households (50% of rural households and 83% of urban households use grid electricity for lighting).

There is a high frequency of multiple fuel use in households as well as a prevalence of multi-purpose end-use. For example, many households use their cooking appliances also for space heating, or use multiple fuel sources for lighting. However, unlike in many other low-income households throughout Africa, people in South Africa do not have to rely on the open fire as their main lighting source, in part this can be attributed to the widespread availability of candles and kerosene at affordable prices. Multi-purpose end-use can have negative consequences for the promotion of energy efficient devices or encouraging fuel switching, for example, an insulated stove might not be as effective at space heating as an uninsulated stove.

There are a number of barriers identified for households switching to more efficient or less polluting energy sources: cost (of both fuel and appliance), convenience, availability (of both fuel and appliance), and negative perceptions of a fuel. Cost is significant for LPG, electricity and kerosene for particular end applications. The deposit required on large cylinders of LPG is problematic for increased access. While many low-income households perceive electricity as too expensive to use for providing large quantities of thermal heat, for example, space heating, cooking and hot water for personal hygiene, its use is highly appreciated for applications which use small quantities of electricity (for example, lighting) or for higher power outputs over short periods when time saving can be important (for example, boiling water for drinks). Households rapidly switch to electric lighting (from candles and kerosene) and refrigeration (from LPG and kerosene). However, households do not seem to make a similar transition to using labour saving devices which require electricity, the trade off is to continue to use the 'unpaid' labour (and energy) of women and children. If women's economic status improved then most likely the household's attitude would change towards the acquisition of labour saving equipment. A concern is that low-income households usually buy second-hand electrical powered household equipment, which can be faulty and difficult to repair. This equipment is also most likely not to be the most energy efficient which means low-income households pay more for their energy than those who can afford more modern, energy efficient equipment. Low-income households are placed at a disadvantage because they are denied access to higher purchase since they usually do not meet the qualification criteria (steady income from regular employment).

Convenience is strongly linked to time saving. Wood and coal are considered inconvenient for cooking (which can be seen from the high percentage of households using kerosene) but are acceptable for boiling large quantities of water (perhaps because cooking needs to be supervised whereas water can be left unattended to boil); lead acid batteries are inconvenient because of the need for frequent re-charging requiring carrying to the recharging centre; paraffin stoves cannot accommodate the large quantities of water for washing - consecutive batches have to be boiled.

Availability is an issue for wood, LPG, coal and kerosene. Availability of LPG is a problem of access. Women find the cylinders too heavy to carry and without their own means of transport, they need male assistance for portering. Coal is restricted to the coalfields. It can be seen that the general provision of affordable alternatives, such as kerosene and candles for lighting, enable other energy conservation strategies or better quality service to be adopted. In this example, there is no need for a three stone fire to provide lighting so the household is able to switch to improved wood stoves or other fuels. Households switch to electricity for lighting and refrigeration as soon as the supply is available. Appliance availability is also a problem. In rural areas, there are problems with access to labour saving equipment. Electric, solar and LPG water heaters are not common in South African low-income households. The widespread use of candles has been in part due to the absence of any need for an associated appliance.

There are negative perceptions about different fuels. These range from health concerns related to kerosene use (effects of fumes on some people particularly asthmatics as well as irritating the eyes) to safety issues related to LPG (i.e. danger of asphyxiation or explosion), candles (fire hazards in low-income rural households which are constructed from flammable material) and kerosene (the popular low cost wick stoves are associated with fires and burns) to cleanliness (coal is dirty and smoky) to convenience (coal takes time to burn) and to perceptions of cost (the glass lamp shades in kerosene lamps break easily, hence kerosene lighting is considered costly to run; short life time of dry cell batteries; electricity for income generation).

Last edited by Miriam Hansen , based on work by Grant Ballard-Tremeer .
Page last modified on Monday 20 of September, 2010 10:51:11 GMT. @HEDON: HUCB

Project Design » Financing Themes » Poverty Service Type » Heating Service Type » Cooking Service Type » Lighting Service Type » Refrigeration Fuels » Wood Fuels » Coal Fuels » LPG Energy form » Solid Energy form » Electricity Project Design » Communcations Continents » Africa » South Africa
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