The Urbane Ecologist

18 June 2015. Literature review, introduction, methodology

Bold indicates where my dissertation fits in existing gaps in research.



4,000-5,000 words


Political Economy of South Africa — the Mineral Energy Complex (MEC)

  • liquified coal due to apartheid ban on imports
    • provides a descriptive relationship between mineral and energy sectors and framework of analysis for country’s PE; helps understand power relations based on dependence of coal and racial cheap labor for cheap electricity and minerals based export industry (reference?)
    • base of MEC is economy structurally dependent on energy intensive growth, driven by mining and materials beneficiation, reliant upon abundant sources of low-cost coal for 96% of electricity (Baker et al., 2014)
    • MEC is regime of accumulation based on (Baker et al., 2014)
      • low-cost state-owned electricity production (Eskom)
      • cheap labor
      • incorporation of Afrikaner political power into mining sector under apartheid
      • rationalisations of finance houses converted into national and international corporate capital, tightly bound to energy and mining capital
    • MEC has changed post-apartheid, but some changes within it (Baker et al., 2014)
      • formation of new black elites through corporate incorporation → reassigning of mineral rights and public procurement and high level office
      • financialisation of country’s resource conglomerates, transfer of primary listings from Joburg Stock Exchange to overseas exchange (e.g. London), liberalisation of capital flows in and out of the country
    • MEC approach emphasises importance of historical trajectories and lock-in (reference? possibly Baker?)


Context of renewable energy technologies in South Africa — rise in recent years

  • problems of electricity system
    • narrow margins between supply and demand of electricity have led Eskom to enter into costly buyback agreements — higher intensity industrial energy users paid not to use electricity by scaling down production (Baker et al., 2014)
    • until supply crisis in 2008, SA had cheapest elec prices in world (Baker et al., 2014)
  • coal dependence — dependence of industry in particular on cheap coal for electricity is not sustainable (Baker et al., 2014)
    • levy on electricity from non-renewable resources (Baker et al., 2014)
    • largest source of GHG in Africa (Baker et al., 2014); possible FIGURE for comparison?
      • Eskom is largest GHG emitter (Baker et al., 2014); possible FIGURE for comparison?
      • Energy Intensive User’s Group (sp?) — 36 members include world’s largest resources and mining conglomerates and hold monopoly over coal production — consume 44% of electricity and largest emitters of GHG (Baker et al., 2014); possible FIGURE for comparison?
    • legacy of apartheid
      • lack of connection to grid (Baker et al., 2014)
      • “special purchasing agreements” (Baker et al., 2014)
    • Copenhagen 2009 – Zuma pledges to reduce GHG by 34% by 2020 and 44% by 2025 — consistent with Long Term Mitigation Scenarios (LTMS) endorsed by Cabinet in 2008 (Baker et al., 2014)
    • REIPPPP introduced; started as REFIT but didn’t work. REIPPPP is unusual — other countries in Africa have feed-in tariffs
    • exogenous factors that promote rise of RE in SA [[can possibly put in box if exceeding word limit]]
      • 2008 financial crisis helps make shift to developing countries (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
        • removal of RE subsidies in Eur and US (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
        • policy uncertainty (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
        • slump in project dev’t (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
      • global overcapacity in tech and hardware (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
        • fierce competition (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
        • cost reductions (esp. solar PV) (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
      • financiers and investors becoming more interested in RE (Baker and Wlokas, 2015); project finance driven by (possibly put in BOX if word count is too large):
        • global trends in unbundling utilities (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
        • privatisation of public sector capital investment (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
        • internationalisation of investment in large infratruct with power generation projects as most important sector (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
        • (Baker and Wlokas, 2015) has more on funding (70:30-80:20 debt/equity — the more debt, the cheaper the project; might have to go into it in discussion/conclusion if not here, depending on results)


Framework of climate change experiments

  • energy and infrastructure are the most common types of experiment (Bulkeley and Broto, 2012)
  • most common form of partnership is between local authorities and private companies in climate change experiments (Bulkeley and Broto, 2012)
  • governance experiments
    • Hoffman’s definition (see Bulkeley and Broto, 2012) — explains what is going on at national scale well in South Africa
  • need to link governance experiments and socio-technical experiments to understand climate change experiments better; experimentation needs new governance (Evans, 2011)
  • want to understand changing role of local governments/municipalities in governing climate change; want more research about these experiments and their effects (Bulkeley and Broto, 2012); this is NOT depreciating the capacity and power of the state (as suggested in Meadowcroft, 2005, for example) but simply seeing value of a new scale
  • socio-technical experiments — transition theory
    • be careful not to confuse general transitions and energy transitions
    • IEA recently came out with report about energy transitions; even say coal should be banned!
    • in transition management, transition experiments achieve goals of transition (Meadowcroft, 2009); although SA government is not explicitly conducting experiments and conducting transition management like Dutch government, it is, as well as many other groups around the world are still doing transition experiments–climate experiments–to combat issues of climate change (mitigation and adaptation) [[need to figure out here if I am talking of a general transition or an energy transition]]
    • Multi-level perspective (MLP) of niche, regime, landscape; FIGURE of this here (possibly Meadowcroft, 2009 has a good figure?; Baker et al., 2014 also have a good figure)
    • MLP concerned with way in which incumbent regimes lose stability because of pressure from niche and landscape level and thus undergo transitions (Meadowcroft, 2009)
    • Explicit transition management is not useful to think about/execute
      • we can’t explicitly “manage” the type of socio-technical transitions with which we are concerned (mentioned in Meadowcroft, 2009, but not sure if attributable to him)
      • we can’t consciously shape the entire course of future societal evolution (Meadowcroft, 2009, but not sure if attributable to him)
      • can use transition theory to understand the transitions in places such as South Africa, but the assumptions of transition management do not translate well (Meadowcroft, 2009)
    • But implicit transition management is evident in climate change experiments and includes many of the benefits inherent in explicit transition management (i.e. pros of transition management–some, but not all, included here)
      • alternative to established governance approaches b/c addresses problems of planning and control and economic incentives (Meadowcroft, 2009)
      • developing interactive processes (Meadowcroft, 2009)
      • transforming established practices in critical societal subsystems (Meadowcroft, 2009)
      • linking technical and social innovation (Meadowcroft, 2009)
      • “learning by doing” (Meadowcroft, 2009)
    • SA already undergoing transition from era of “energy opulence” to one of restraint imposed by series of infrastructure, economy, environment, physical constraints (Baker et al., 2014)
    • MEC is a regime of accumulation based on low-cost state-owned electricity production (via Eskom) and cheap labor, the incorporation of Afrikaner political power into the mining sector under apartheid and the rationalization of finance houses, since converted into large-scale national and international coproate capital, tighly bound to energy and mining capital (Swilling and Annecke 2012; 218) – seen in Baker et al., 2014.
  • transition theory studies lack enough analysis of politics, conflict, and political ecology (Bulkeley and Broto, 2012; Meadowcroft, 2009; Meadowcroft, 2011); also has a focus on the bottom up, and not enough focus on power landscapes (Meadowcroft, 2009) — this is where the MEC comes in
  • transition theory helps explain what is going on at national level, but not clear understanding of what is happening with each project and at local level (Bulkeley and Broto 2012 call for this)
  • green niches are more likely to diffuse into the mainstream and displace incumbent regimes if the regime is placed under concerted pressure to become more sustainable (Meadowcroft, 2009); strategic niche management (SNM) — niche alone unlikely to transform regime — need some level of compatitibility (Meadowcroft, 2009). This is where MEC comes in at national level, but missing local level understanding of “landscape”, etc
  • Need to prevent of the following transition: electric capitalism (current electricity regime entrenches and embeds existing inequalities through uneven development and levels of accumulation while locking in carbon-intensive development path) → climate capitalism (capitalism’s growth imperatives are increasingly served by creation of new sites of accumulation in low-carbon economy) (source? possibly Baker and Wlokas, 2015?)
  • strategic experiments (Bulkeley and Broto, 2012) — don’t see much connection to this case


REIPPPP and its socioeconomic development requirements

  • BOX/FIGURE: Historical info of REIPPPP (e.g. REFIT→ REIPPPP), other countries in Africa have feed-in tariffs, etc.
  • BOX or FIGURE: timeline of rounds; also possibly changes from rounds 1 and 2 to 3
  • FIGURE: Map of approved REIPPPP projects from EnergyBlog
  • innovation is insitutionalized under neoliberal logic of urban competitiveness (Evans, 2011)
  • BOX: various styles of project company ownership from (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
  • project companies must have
    • 40% or more SA entity participation (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
    • minimum black ownership of 12% with a target of 20% (Baker and Wlokas, 2015) [[same or another publication says minimum of 8%; when did this change? Possibly have a BOX with changes from rounds 1 and 2 to 3]]
    • minimum 2.5% ownership by communities living within 50 km radius (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
    • developers must make 1-1.5% of revenue available to communities (Tait et al., 2014)
    • failure to develop on economic development criteria nad ownership requirements is a “potential breakage event” (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
  • BOX: of REIPPPP requirements (Baker and Wlokoas, 2015; Tait et al., 2014)
  • BOX: developers hire engineering procurement and construction company (EPC) (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
    • EPC is usually international company w/ SA subsidiary or int’l company in JV or consortium with one of more SA entities (Baker and Wlokas, 2015); Group 5 is appealling for its experience in construction industry and black ownership labels reduce complications (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
    • EPC is largest cost item on budget so developers like the whole package (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
  • REIPPPP apploaded for
    • high quality regulatory framework (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
    • tough qualification criteria (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
    • strong economic development and community ownership requirements (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
    • all of these give a good signal to investors and developers BUT are complex and expensive process with high compliance costs (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
  • concerns re REIPPPP [[if too many can simply put most of them in a BOX and focus on only a few in text]]
    • extent to which financial returns will benefit or leave country; ability of national players in industry (inc. banks) to retain stake (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
    • ownership of industry becoming domain of large international utilities; design of programme has meant that smaller, local firms have struggled to enter and retain share of market (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
    • nature of economic and community benefits in country of socio-economic inequality along racial divisions (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
    • Eskom’s lack of financial and technical capacity to strengthen grid may create obstacles (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
    • to what extent is dependence on speculative finance “long term, patient and committed”? (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
    • whether it will create long-term manufacturing and service industry (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
    • suspicion by organised labor (e.g. trade unions) and civil society of people getting wealth and power from REIPPPP (reference? possibly Baker)
  • concerns re REIPP’s socioeconomic development requirements
    • problems identifying beneficiaries within 50 km radius (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
      • doesn’t have to be all
      • affected by population density, socio-economic development, racial mix
      • rural vs peri-urban vs urban area
      • overlapping boundary areas for more than one project
      • potential buildup of mistrust, miscommunication and discontent
      • doubling up of work with different goals and objectives
    • problems knowing how spending should be allocated in places with more than 1 project (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
    • different approaches chosen by companies when engaging with communities (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
      • SA Wind Energy Association established (2014) “Communities for Wind” to support private sector learning and positive relationship building with communities
      • PV Association (SAPVIA) (2015) launch of sub-committee of issues of SEd and ED
      • various stakeholders interested in sharing expenses and challenges of community dev’t (Tait et al., 2014)
    • unequal distribution of projects and funding for local economic measures across country (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
      • g. De Aar (Northern Cape) — 7 projects in small town with limited economic development opportunity beyond renewables
      • most projects are in Northern Cape (Tait et al., 2014)
    • job creation is not long term (especially for wind and solar PV) (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
      • skills developmetn and long-term employment not everywhere
      • strikes and social unrest
      • attempts to mitigate this exist e.g. community liason office at Cookhouse Wind Farm
    • alignment of community engagement process with project development cycle (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
      • plan submitted with bid submissions, but by then difficult to carry out participatory assessments
      • developers lack feedback on submitted socio-economic development plan
    • competitive bidding environment — difficult to foster collaboration among different IPPs and share project info prior to project selection (Tait et al., 2014)
    • successive bidding rounds at different times — so different projects in different stages of development (Tait et al., 2014); developers want more collaboration (Tait et al., 2014)
    • no government feedback on community benefit aspects of RE projects (e.g. SED development plans) (Tait et al., 2014)
      • how it will be monitored (Tait et al., 2014)
      • whether those projects with more ambitious development aspects are graded more favorably, etc
    • local content requirements create a conflict between government priorities for employment generation, skills, development, and local green econonmy; and financial institutions that want “bankability” and “proven technologies” — local companies are discouraged because of this (reference?)
    • local community trusts aren’t a good way of managing money (reference?); they are managed by a board of trustees (Tait et al., 2014); they are common in development in SA but they have some problems (Tait et al., 2014):
      • exclusive, not inclusive (Tait et al., 2014)
      • difficult to manage (Tait et al., 2014)
      • introduce many challenges to representing community and local politics (Tait et al., 2014)
      • and many more… (see Tait et al., 2014)
    • municipality development plans often source of information for project developers, but at the end of the day the latter decides how the money is spend
  • project developers are confused about economic dev’t criteria and ownership requirements (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
    • complex (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
    • different interpretations (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
    • go beyond competence of most developers (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
    • different amount of respect for value of this (e.g. depending on amount of time in SA) (Baker and Wlokas, 2015)
    • don’t know how much detail needed for SED strategies (Tait et al., 2014)
    • beneficiary definitions very simplistic (Tait et al., 2014)
    • no indications of what role various stake holders should have (e.g. local municipalities) (Tait et al., 2014)
    • no reference to community engagement or participatory approaches to development, appropriate governance structures, or alignment with local municipal Integrated Development Planning Objectives (Tait et al., 2014)
  • Tait et al., 2014 recommendations to maximise community benefits; will probably put in a BOX and just focus on main ones in text
    • reform bidding process
      • amend economic development requirements and scorecard
      • address concerns about defining beneficiary commitments
    • develop representative industry platform to collaborate on community building issues
      • facilitate enabling environment for collaboration between projects in the same area or region
      • ensure community-level platforms are well informed and resourced
    • more comprehensive research to develop good practice recommendations
      • identify the most appropriate governance structures for development funds (not community trusts)
      • research different finance mechanisms for the share of community ownership
    • improve governance and inclusion to maximise development benefits
      • develop regional oversight of projects
      • closely monitor progress and review
    • community-owned land more difficult to secure but better in long term (Tait et al., 2014)
    • relationships with municipalities complicated when they cover more than one municipal area (Tait et al., 2014)
    • municipalities suffer from skills shortages and lack of human capacity (Tait et al., 2014)
    • community dev’t practitioners say as soon as you bring money in, you get more mistrust, tension, and corruption (Tait et al., 2014)
    • IPPs may not have expertise to manage complex community interactions and relations (Tait et al., 2014)
    • Most developers do appear to be consulting with local municipal development processes (e.g. Dev’t Plans) but private sector still retains control over spending money (Tait et al., 2014)
    • from practical standpoint, need to better understand how to link projects/developers with the people they helping “develop” socio-economically
    • key stakeholders in the local development processes are local municipalities, but it is unclear what role they should play (Tait et al., 2014); need to examine what, if any, explicit role the municipality and local governments have in this process (which they currently do not)
      • should they be included in formation of trust structure? (Tait et al., 2014)
      • how much should developers align with Integrated Development Plans (IDPs) or Local Economic Development (LED) Strategies? (Tait et al., 2014)
    • nobody has a good suggestion for a better governance structure (Tait et al., 2014)
    • Is there a perfect balance for municipalities, where they are not too involved and also involved?


Case studies

  • Droogfontein Solar Power
    • BOX: Basic project info (developers, capacity, EPC, financing, etc)
    • What makes it interesting
      • location in Kimberley, former diamond mining area with rich history of apartheid conflict; fits in MEC theory well
      • works with De Aar solar power in executing socioeconomic development projects
      • is expanding, with new project partners (Droogfontein 2 with Sun Edison)
      • 4% owned by Trust Letsatsi Borutho community trust (more than most other projects)
      • built on community-owned land
    • Red Cap Kooga Wind Farm
      • BOX: Basic project info (developers, capacity, EPC, financing, etc)
      • What makes it interesting
        • has entered agreement with Endangered Wildlife Trust and Francis Kromme Trust
        • is a CDM project
        • there are nearby farms and plants nearby, so there must be an interesting relationship with them and the surrounding communities








750 words


  • general historical overview of how each case study came about and results of socioeconomic development efforts so far
  • at end, come up with micro scale regime, landscape, niche for each study [[will be helpful/applicable?]]
  • examine interests, institutions, and ideas (ideologies, etc) for each case study (Meadowcroft, 2011); what was the role of municipal government in these projects?
  • examine what seemed to work well and what were pitfalls of each project
  • review which ones of Tait et al., 2014’s recommendations were already being acted upon, which ones are useful, and whether I can add any




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