Domestic LPG interventions in South Africa: Challenges and lessons

01 Jun 2017

A majority of grid-connected households in South Africa use electricity for cooking and heating tasks. This thermal intensive use of electricity has a high load factor and is a contributory factor of electricity demand outstripping supply at peak demand periods. The government has promoted liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) as an alternative thermal energy source for household cooking and heating. This study evaluates the long-term successes, challenges and social impacts of an LPG intervention project that was piloted in Atteridgeville Township, a typical low-income suburb. The data was gathered through one-on-one household interviews with a sample of the beneficiaries. The results indicate that seven years after the LPG intervention, about 70% of the beneficiaries continue to use LPG and report that the intervention has improved their welfare. Fast cooking is cited as the key tangible benefit of LPG technology in households, followed by saving on electricity bills. The project would have achieved more success through better community engagement, including strict beneficiary selection criteria; a long-term LPG distribution and maintenance plan; and inclusion of recurring monthly LPG subsidies for indigent households. The study discusses the subset of factors necessary for successful rollouts of similar energy projects.