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EnerGcare - Bringing Renewable and Efficient Energy to South Africa's Urban Poor

EnerGCare has developed a bottom-up distribution network for clean and affordable energy products. The network combines the deployment of independent sales agents with advertising and product demonstrations across three poorer South African townships to distribute solar and energy efficient items. This provides jobs and makes life easier for urban poor, while helping to tackle the problem of climate change.

Fast facts:

  • 50 independent sales agents trained and deployed
  • 3,000 products introduced into townships
  • 50,000 people reached

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The problem

There are more than 5 million low-income urban households in South Africa straining under increasing energy prices. Poorer households end up spending as much as 20 per cent of their income on energy – and energy prices keep going up. People want affordable alternatives. Nonetheless knowledge of renewable and energy-efficient technology is extremely limited, and the necessary retail infrastructure is inadequate.

The solution

EnerGcare develops a distribution infrastructure within the informal townships of Khayelitsha, Alexandra, and Soweto to provide households there with access to clean and affordable energy products. It has planned and trained 50 independent sales agents to market and sell efficient and alternative energy products like improved cook stoves and lanterns, micro-solar lighting and mobile phone chargers. The network built its brand and supported its products with an advertising campaign involving billboards, radio, and newspaper advertisements, along with product demonstrations. It has sold only proven, high-quality brands to assure success.

Helping the planet

The project’s focus on energy-efficient and alternative energy products hopes to reduce South Africa’s dependency on coal-burning power, liquefied petroleum gas, and oil-based paraffin. All of these are fossil-fuel based, and their use is contributing to global climate change – switching to energy-efficient and solar technology could help stave that off. Use of more efficient cook stoves will also help prevent deforestation, which in addition to climate impacts also degrades the land.

Helping people

The effort should help the informal townships’ residents save money and become less vulnerable to oil price fluctuations. Stoves that burn fuel more efficiently make for cleaner, less smoky kitchens, which benefits mostly women and children. Less use of candles and paraffin heaters also reduces the risk of devastating shack fires, while nighttime light that stays brighter for longer allows children to study better. The initiative has also provided work opportunities to people in the slums.

Spillover effect

The current effort represents the expansion of a pilot project. The aim is to replicate and scale up EnerGcare across most townships in South Africa, possibly through the establishment of micro-franchises, once it’s proven to be commercially viable.

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