Powering Sustainable Energy in Buffalo City

Climate protection, renewable energies and energy efficiency - a secure energy supply for everyone


Empowering sustainable production and consumption of energy – this is South African Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality’s way to address local outages and global warming at the same time. By showcasing different ways to save and produce energy sustainably consumers are encouraged to follow the good practice.


In recent years many consumers have been added to South Africa’s power grid. But there is not enough electricity available, so customers are switched off the grid for hours. This practice called »load shedding« is a nuisance for private households, and a serious problem for the commercial industry.

It is not the only challenge concerning the energy sector: South Africa’s heavy dependency on coal-fired power generation is a factor for global warming. The country ranks as the world’s 13th largest CO2-emitter. Given the demand of water for coal mining, coal-firing aggravates water shortages, too.

Buffalo City decided to kill these three birds with one stone. It promotes climate protection, renewable energy and energy efficiency, moving towards security of power supply for everyone.


Eastern Cape Provincial Government’s energy efficiency policy calls for gaining at least 5 percent of needed energy to be generated from renewable sources.

So Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality has started to produce its own energy by tapping wind and sun in a pilot project.This helps saving energy costs – especially in combination with measures to increase energy efficiency.

In addition, the pilot project seeks to show the potentials of saving and renewably producing energy to the public.


The municipal building in Beacon Bay was chosen as the site for the pilot project. Apart from solar panels and a wind mill, a solar water heater, energy saving LED lightening, a hybrid air conditioning unit and occupancy sensors on all lighting were installed over a period of 17 months from October 2014 to March 2016, in cooperation with the City of Oldenburg in Germany. A smart meter monitors changes in energy supply and consumption.

Municipal staff benefited from training on energy efficiency and sustainable energy production – know-how to be shared with the public in an attempt to change outdated consumption patterns. The pilot project turned into a showcase after implementation. Among others, child-friendly leaflets informed about the results.


Paybacks on the investments started to materialise after only 18 months.

While 20% saving of baseline electricity consumption from the grid had been the objective, actual savings amounted to 50%.

A 250 Watt photovoltaic home styled system demonstrates usability for private households.

Illegal grid tapping is rampant in some informal housing areas – and poses dangers to life and property. To provide a low cost legal access to electricity the pilot project also showcases a cheaper 100 watt solar panel system with charging ports for mobile telephones and which allows owners to operate four LED lights and a small television – a new constructive approach to prevent electricity thefts.


The project's costs of 1.4 Million Rand, or 60.000 Euro, have been invested well. The project was funded by the State of Lower Saxony, the City of Oldenburg and the Service Agency Communities in One World (SKEW) of Engagement Global – Buffalo City and Oldenburg’s climate partnership was already being supported by the SKEW in 2015. As part of the twinning agreement with Buffalo City, Oldenburg provided input by experts.

The brief payback periods for the installations makes them attractive for municipal institutions, the business sector and private consumers alike. Measuring and displaying reliable data on savings concerning a mix of technologies turned out to be persuasive to foster change in the energy sector.


Author: Sabine Hammer


Rob Ferrier


Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality

Directorate of Infrastructure Services

PO Box 81, East London, 5200

26 Oxford Street, East London, 5201

Province of the Eastern Cape

South Africa



Regions:AfricaSouth AfricaBuffalo City