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Energy Services for the Urban Poor (Part 1)


Ikhupuleng Dube


Study Background

This report deals with the problems associated with energy services to the urban poor. It notes that the present energy supply policies do not address the energy needs of the poor. This has resulted in the majority of the urban poor having no access to modern forms of energy. The lack of access to modern forms of energy by the poor is due to the misplaced assumption that very little in terms of investment on infrastructure need to be undertaken in urban areas to achieve equity in energy supply. The existing government policies are designed to enhance access of energy in rural areas, which because of past political reasons remain marginalized in terms of access to modern forms of energy.

Government policy on energy supplies for the urban poor has been to ensure that their sources of energy (electricity and kerosene) are affordable. In line with this policy, government has introduced electricity and kerosene subsidies. However these subsidies are benefiting households and other groups not entitled to the subsidies. ZESA, municipalities and the private sector have had schemes designed to improve access to modern forms of energy by the urban poor. ZESA has introduced compact distribution boards (CDBs) and prepayment metering to lessen the low-income plight of the urban poor. Municipalities and the Ministry of Local Government and Public Construction and the private sector has been building urban households, internally wired and connected to the grid on completion.

Study Objectives 

The study, which will be carried out in two phases (short term and medium term studies), will provide stakeholders and policy makers with useful data on energy characteristics of the urban poor. It will shed light on the energy needs of the urban poor and explore possible solutions to some of the problems. Specifically this first part of the study provided information on:

  • Relationship between incomes, expenditure and energy consumption options amongst the urban poor.

  • The impact of upfront or energy end use devices' costs in determining access to modern forms of energy by the urban poor.

  • The extent of the differential ability and willingness to pay for modern forms of energy by the urban poor.

The extent to which lack of access to modern forms of energy by the urban poor is influenced by:

  • Lack of political interest.

  • Lack of prospects for economic gain.

  • Operational problems.

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