It is an attempt to tell that there is the urgent need for a keen assessment of Africa’s housing market; its dynamics, opportunities, challenges, as well as the role that the main stakeholders especially governments can play in designing and implementing policies and programs in relation to solar power reverse metering to help bridge existing housing delivery gap.
It also fair to note that there are other stakeholders equally capable of doing such. They include the private sector, NGOs, civil society, and development finance institutions.
To be helpful to all readers it would be the best to define housing deficit or the housing delivery gap and what solar power or net metering is. The definitions and methodologies used by governments to estimate housing deficits vary widely. In general, housing shortfalls can be calculated based on three different qualities:
- (i) the numerical shortfall in dwellings (deficit)
- (ii) the qualitative shortfall in physical conditions (obsolescence or substandard construction with non‐durable building material)
- (iii) the space shortfall within dwellings and can be called overcrowding (WorldBankGroup, 2015).
Learning More About Solar Power Reverse Metering
Solar power reverse metering is an incentive that allows a person to store energy in the electric grid. When your solar panels produce more electricity that you need, that same energy is sent to the grid in exchange for some credits (EnergySage, 2016).
Simply put it is providing a simple way for customers to export solar power to the grid when they have a surplus, and get power back when they need it.
There have been several global conversations of how our buildings can be highly efficient. This is definitely one of the ways which falls in line with the United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Initiative’s aim to also double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030. Where conversations about solar power give a good impression and have over the past several years been in demand. Africa has 7 of the 10 sunniest countries on earth: Chad, Egypt, Kenya, Madagascar, Niger, South Africa and Sudan. A few solar projects have sprung up in the last few years on other parts of the continent, and interest in building new projects has been growing steadily. But solar power development in Africa remains modest (Kuwonu, 2016)
Rapid urbanization requires new development goals
Africa’s population has also grown tremendously in the past decades, increasing on average by 2.53 percent annually between 1950 and 2015 (UN Population Division, 2015)
This rapid growth is also expected to continue in the next four decades. According to the latest projections Africa’s population will grow from 1.18 billion in 2015 to 2.44 billion in 2050 (Bah, Faye, & Geh, 2018) .
Although Africa’s population lives predominantly in rural areas (60%) the rate of rural flight to urban areas is alarming. The urbanization rate between 2000 and 2015 averaged 3.5 percent, which is the highest rate in the world. The urban share of Africa’s population is expected to surpass 50 percent by 2037 (UN Population Division, 2014)
This trend is visible in its fast-growing cities, which are also becoming more densely populated.
The rapid urbanization rates and lack of urban planning have resulted in very large housing deficits, defined earlier as the difference between the number of households and the number of permanent dwellings.
Overall, 17 African countries have housing deficits of more than 1 million units (Bah, Faye, & Geh, 2018)
It can be recognized that if nothing is done to dramatically change the situation, poor urban planning and inadequate housing supply will severely constrain Africa’s infrastructural transformation.
The issue which is addressed in this article tries to outline the possibility of using solar power reverse metering as a viable means to bridge the existing housing delivery gap. African governments can play majorly in facilitating Real Estate Developers and Homeowners to advance this system.
Its been noted earlier that about 60% of Africa’s population lives predominantly in rural areas. It is fair to shortly and fairly assess the applicability of solar power in our areas, both rural and urban.
Solar Energy, a viable energy source for rural areas?
Reasonably, it can still be said that in rural areas still solar energy is not a viable option at individual level as well corporate level simply because solar energy equipment carry lot of complex accessories which is very difficult for a common man to understand hence it makes difficult for a person to get convinced and adopt. Although similar situations may exist in urban areas, the plight differs. Also, because of this complexity people don’t know how it will get corrected when the system breaks down because of some fault, the upfront cost to get a solar panel or plant fixed discourages most homeowners.
Decisions about buildings for real estate developers and homeowners in most urban areas are governed by a mix of public and private actors and subject to formal and informal forms of authority with local governments generally holding authority to adopt and/or implement policies. This largely influences the path to use solar power to bridge the existing housing deficit in Ghana.
With that it is important to bring new perspectives to the current situation and to highlight a few possible action plans to help facilitate interested real estate developers and home owners to attempt to reduce the housing deficit in Africa.
Traditionally, government actions to influence building sector activity have been focused on either land-use planning or health and safety, with little attention given to economic or environmental impacts of building decisions.
National governments are responsible for many other areas of policy that relate to the use of energy or other resources in buildings. Two important examples often include regulation of energy utilities and the technical specifications of appliances and other building components available in the market including their resource efficiency, this is something to start with.
African governments may require enabling legislation or new regulations
In that same vein governments have the authority to set and make it a priority to enforce building regulations, thus make it inclusive to add solar equipment as a basic requirement; one that is capable of storing and reverting it back to a grid and a host of other policies through a combination of mandates and incentives. Such implementation strategy serves as an effective way to regularize the use of solar equipment’s in various homes. Although specific areas of authority vary from country to country and even from city to city, regulation of land use and building construction and management are usually under the purview of local governments. This certainly is going to take time and it is to be noted that poorly designed or implemented engagement can lead people to feel they are not being treated fairly or that decisions are being imposed on them. Compliance to this can be encouraged through extended grace periods as well.
Another key takeaway is that upfront cost involved in acquiring solar equipment is a major barrier for real estate developers and homeowners. A variety of programs can be designed to overcome this barrier and encourage greater investments for building owners, its managers, and occupants as well. Incentives are a way to lower such costs, government can offer tax deductions to cover some or all of the costs related to providing solar equipment in either commercial, industrialized or individual homeowners. Grants to real estate developers, rebates as well as tax incentives help pay down some of the upfront cost of investing in solar technology for housing.
Also, governments can provide non-financial incentives, such as granting these real estate developers priority processing of building permits once it is recognized that their means of supplying energy to their developments or housing units is solar. Partnerships between the real estate developers and African governments are essential to achieve widespread success as well.
In order for these actions to succeed they must be developed and implemented as part of an action plan or package of measures to be done overtime. This should involve a clear road-map for achieving success. With the right enabling conditions put in place and the right partners on board. These key ingredients will help get our African cities and areas get started however it is equally important to track subsequent progress and improve practices over time.
Governments should lead by example, they can lead by example by making their own building portfolio more energy- and resource-efficient and setting ambitious efficiency targets that create demand for efficient buildings. Budgeting and procurement procedures can be amended so that all government-owned and leased building space meets certain efficiency standards, and buildings use only efficient appliances, equipment and lighting. Governments can promote the use of energy performance contracts, allowing public agencies and institutions to outsource efficiency projects to an energy service company.
In order for the above to succeed, they must be developed and implemented as part of an action plan or package of measures. This should involve a clear road-map for achieving success with the right enabling conditions put in place and the right partners on board. These key ingredients will help cities get started but it is equally important to track subsequent progress and improve practices over time.
This article first appeared in https://medium.com/@gagyeinyarko/africa-quo-vadimus-the-sun-our-means-of-bridging-housing-delivery-gap-c9659e6770b0