Lauren Hermanus and Liza Rose Cirolia have published a new report entitled The Cable is Coming: Distributed energy technologies, decentralising systems, and the future of African cities. The Decentralised Urban Energy Access Project, funded by the EPSRC, reflects a collaboration between the African Centre for Cities at University of Cape Town and the University of Bristol. The project forms part of a bigger initiative hosted by the University of Bristol which falls under the banner of Off-Grid Cities, a Global Challenge Research Fund theme.
From development finance institutions to venture capital investors, actors have voiced a growing enthusiasm for solar mini-grids across Africa. These finance flows and related development discourses have driven an expansion of small-scale options for electricity access for residential and commercial applications. The flexibility of these solutions, to stand alone, overlay, extend, or be embedded in national distribution grids, has been central to discourses of infrastructural adaptability, particularly in the face of the low-carbon transition, constrained utilities, rapid urbanisation and a confluence of other discreet processes impacting the region.
This report uses the case of Uganda as an illustration of the diversity of intersections between small-scale electricity generation and urban development, raising critical questions related to the possibilities and risks of distributed technological systems in the context of Africa’s growing cities.