When the Party’s Over, Don’t Turn off the Lights! - Making Donor Funded S&L Programs Sustainable
Residential Standards and Labelling (S&L) Programs have come a long way since first being introduced in the US in the early 1970’s; and are now a proven approach to reduce electricity consumption. Indeed, a 2014 study identified over 80 countries with S&L programs, many of which in developing and certain emerging countries, are donor funded1 . And here the benefit of repetition and experience has meant that project outcomes for most developing country programs are well known and include label design, selection of appliances, testing facilities, awareness and compliance. Typically, high penetration and large electricity consuming appliances are selected; namely, refrigerators, laundry, lighting, cooling (fans and AC) and more recently televisions – with some slight variations due to cultural preferences (rice cookers in Asia) and income. Certainly, this was the case for South Africa, which in 2011 received a $4.3 million GEF grant to implement a residential S&L program. However, implementation comes with challenges; and key amongst these is sustainability of the program – an issue likely to be faced by most developing countries whose programs’ continued viability, and in certain instances existence, is heavily reliant on donor funding. What happens to the sustainability of the program when donor funding and time limits approach expiry? This paper communicates the South African experience with the objective of providing a possible approach for other countries to consider. Due to a slow start, GEF granted the South African S&L project two extensions, which ultimately proved to be the correct decision, as the project’s implementation revived due to renewed commitment and stakeholder prioritization. The continuation of these successes and other critical work-in-progress outcomes such as compliance, is however coming under threat as the project deadline looms. Indeed, current Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) are already becoming obsolete as appliance efficiencies improve; and of greater concern has been the real risk that the program would not expand beyond the 11 original appliances selected in 2011. To mitigate these risks, the “Next Set of Appliances” study was commissioned using existing project resources; so as to: 1) Evaluate the existing MEPS to identify which could be strengthened; and, 2) Identify new electrical equipment (expanded to light commercial equipment). In this, a broad approach was adopted, where the consultants identified as many as 96 potential pieces of electrical equipment and then narrowed these down to 8, based on mutually agreed criteria, (penetration rates, opportunity for electricity savings, global MEPS implementation, ease of adoption and technology / other barriers). The maximum electricity savings and benefits were demonstrated to the Department of Energy’s Clean Energy Branch Director; placing the unit in a position to make informed decisions to support an application for an allocation in the upcoming internal budgeting process (outcome pending at time of writing). Moreover, the study provides reliable, robust, up-to-date information and data needed for new donor funding applications. The paper explains the approach followed, industry responses, report on the outcomes and the next steps to integrate the program into national planning. And in so doing, the paper provides an approach for other countries to consider when faced with the inevitable issue of sustainability of their S&L program.