TO THE PEOPLE
Innovative thinking is driving the electrification of rural municipalities
The enormous challenge of taking electricity to thousands of remote, rural areas throughout South Africa demands innovative entrepreneurial thinking. Laying cables is a costly affair, and delivering electricity to some of our poorest citizens is never going to be a very profitable venture. But it’s a government imperative, and one that bright thinking by Pretoria-based engineering firm Mphaphuli Consulting is helping to resolve. The company also has offices in Limpopo.
Until the company stepped in, projections were that it would take until 2025 before every home in South Africa had electricity. But electrical engineer Lufuno Mphaphuli has developed a model that could see the task completed far sooner.
He and his company are currently working on Project Mabone, taking power to more than 26 villages in the Greater Tubatse municipality. When that is completed, they will have connected more than 30 000 rural households to the electricity grid.
Government initially aimed for universal access to electricity by 2012, yet more than 2 million households are still in the dark, and more houses are being built all the time.
KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and Limpopo have the highest numbers of unconnected homes. In fact, Mphaphuli doubts whether even the most efficient of South Africa’s 284 municipalities can claim full electrification.
Mphaphuli Consulting has developed an efficient way of working within the constraints of municipal budgets, and the company expects to wire up another 20 000 houses in more than 40 villages this year.
His model works by helping municipalities to accelerate their connection rates through his company drawing down from electrification grants allocated for future years, which the department of energy and Treasury are happy to allow.
Without this approach, what often happens is that a municipality starts an electrification project but stops when that year’s money runs out, leaving some houses in the dark. Mphaphuli Consulting, by contrast, approaches municipalities with a large backlog and helps them to present a case for permission to finish the electrical roll-out on the basis of guaranteed payment.
“I studied government policies and looked at the statistics and the allocation of money in the municipalities,” says Mphaphuli.
“Now when we do a village, we don’t leave any houses behind, because we know the money will come