City Power Launches ‘Energy Box’ for Informal Settlement Electrification

Johannesburg's Innovative Solution Aims to Replace Illegal Connections with Safe Energy

To tackle the widespread problem of unauthorized power connections, City Power Johannesburg is actively looking for manufacturing and venture capital partners to develop a new concept called a “energy box.” One of the 312 informal communities in the city is to receive a safer, more sustainable power solution thanks to this program. Paul Vermeulen, Chief Engineer of City Power for Renewable Energy, described the project’s goal of installing 3 kWh energy storage boxes in each residence. To ensure safe and effective energy production, these boxes would be connected to a central solar photovoltaic system, best placed on a neighboring warehouse or industrial roof.

Within these storage systems, the idea calls for the use of lithium-ion batteries that would be charged by a 130 W nonlethal direct current (DC) delivered via a light wire network. This network may be moved if the settlement is given official development status. Its low copper content design lowers the chance of theft. The benefits of reusing the system and adhering to the Municipal Finance Management Act, which prohibits the installation of permanent electrical infrastructure in non-permanent residential areas, were elucidated by Vermeulen. Thanks to integrated communication capabilities, the energy boxes could include features for community safety like security and fire alarms in addition to providing power.

Every energy box would have an induction hotplate (which needs ferrous-based cookware) for cooking and a USB-C port for charging and lighting mobile devices. Energy theft and excessive use, which are problems with many conventional grid connections, would be prevented by the efficient management of power allocation that these appliances would achieve through communication with the main DC distribution and control system.

Vermeulen highlighted the project’s economic viability by pointing out that registered families may benefit from the free basic energy allocation and that funding from the Integrated National Electrification Programme could be used to pay for the project’s capital expenditures. If monthly use above 50 kWh, a minimal, subsidized price will be imposed. “In order to address the widespread issue of nontechnical losses and electricity theft in these locations, this system is designed to dispense a fixed quantity of energy to each household on a daily basis,” Vermeulen said. Additionally, he pointed out that the system’s design would prevent any increase in the evening peak load, a common issue with unregulated connections.

In addition, the project expects to save money over time. Rooftop solar installations are anticipated to produce energy at a cost substantially less than the average price currently paid by Eskom. Future increases in demand and network fees are predicted to widen this difference, further boosting the economic benefits of the informal sector. City Power’s next steps include continuing to look for technical and financial partners and stepping up community involvement to enhance the concept based on local feedback. With the new approach, the amount of infrastructure needed to manage the current load may be significantly reduced—from 600 MW more of substation capacity to less than 30 MW.

The project intends to reduce social tensions and safety hazards connected with illegal connections, which frequently result in overloads, outages, and occasionally violent confrontations, in addition to providing a dependable power source. “This solution might dramatically minimize the risks connected with illicit connections and offer a dependable, safe electrical option for residents of informal settlements,” says Vermeulen, who is still hopeful about the energy box initiative’s potential.

You may also like

white logo new

Energy News Africa Plus is dedicated to illuminating the vast expanses of Africa’s energy industry.

Editors' Picks

Latest Stories

© 2024 Energy News Africa Plus. All Rights Reserved.