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Initiating Benchmarking of Other Municipal Services – Electricity/Energy and Solid Waste Status Quo Assessments

21 April 2017

Municipalities in South Africa are mandated to provide a range of services that promote social and economic development and that ensure adequate environmental protection to communities. Typical services include water supply, sanitation, electricity/energy management, roads and stormwater management, electricity, municipal public transport and municipal environmental management.

Municipalities play a crucial role in the distribution and supply of electricity across South Africa. The landscape in which this role is played is a challenging and changing one. Following on from the recent energy crisis (which resulted in rising energy prices, and rolling blackouts), many commercial, industrial and residential consumers are looking outward towards alternate means to ensure their energy security. The rapid uptake of PV over the past two years has resulted in a lack of effective regulation and policy and it has been many times up to local municipalities to develop policies and practices to govern the uptake of, for example, solar PV. Within this changing landscape, both opportunities and threats exist for municipalities, including their playing a key role in unlocking investment opportunities for energy services whilst amending their own business models to cater accordingly. Other opportunities are in energy savings in municipal water and wastewater infrastructure, where it is estimated that wastewater treated at municipal treatment works could generate up to 780 MW of power.

Similarly, the solid waste industry in South Africa consists mainly of collection and landfilling, with a limited amount of recycling (approximately 10%), and Municipalities play a key role in solid waste management, handling household waste and commercial and industrial waste - noting that in larger municipalities the private sector and/or service providers may be involved.  Whilst solid waste is often seen as the Cinderella of municipal services, the country’s waste management landscape is changing due to national and international policy and regulatory reform. Considerable potential now exists to increase the amount of recycling and to create related opportunities. Opportunities exist for an expanded waste management sector (collection, sorting, processing, treatment etc.), and for reuse, recycling and recovery. 

Benchmarking is internationally recognised as an effective means towards performance improvement, through both (i) introducing suitable Performance Indicators by which to track and improve performance against yourself and your peers, and (ii) as a means to profile and share best practises via peer-to-peer engagements and resulting “adaption” of these best practices by the broader community. The SALGA led Municipal Benchmarking Initiative (MBI) for Water Services has had a very positive impact on the municipal water and sanitation services over the last few years. 

As part of the initiation process, status quo assessment reports were prepared with the following specific objectives:

  • To understand the current state of municipal electricity/energy and solid waste services in South Africa, including regulatory and legal requirements, key sector role-players and stakeholders, current practices and emerging best practices, typical indicators used to measure performance, and the status of data used to generate these performance indicators (PIs).
  • To establish a framework/roadmap to initiate municipal electricity/energy and solid waste services benchmarking, using lessons learnt from the MBI for water services.

All sector parties engaged with in the preparation of these reports and the determination of the above were strongly supportive as to the benefit of an MBI: Electricity/Energy and MBI: Solid Waste.

The findings from this study will inform the initiation of benchmarking of municipal electricity/energy and solid waste services in South Africa. In particular, the Roadmap highlights the importance of a guiding operational model, a duly constituted Steering Committee, development of a Strategic Plan to guide sustainability over years 2 to 4 of the initiative, and the importance of a municipal business health check to support the performance management cycle.