Solid fuel use in electrified low-income residential areas in South Africa: The case of KwaDela, Mpumalanga




air pollution, domestic burning, solid fuels, low-income residential ares


Domestic solid fuel combustion remains a key contributor to indoor and ambient air pollution in low-income settlements. Understanding solid-fuel cost perceptions and burning patterns variability is required for developing sustainable energy policies and applicable site-specific intervention strategies to effectively improve ambient air quality. The purpose of the study was to understand domestic solid fuel use dynamics and trends in KwaDela, a low-income residential area in Mpumalanga. Data were gathered using surveys, questionnaires, observations, and temperature sensors. Findings were that there are two main local sources of wood and coal within the settlement and each household was estimated to consume 1 800 to 2 992.5 kg of coal annually. The maximum amount of coal used per burning event was 9.3 kg, with an average of 4 kg and a standard deviation of ±2.5 kg. Coal and wood purchase price varied depending on their sources, but were cheaper than electricity. In winter, the burning events are longer (four to six hours) than in summer and more (one to three) per day, and start earlier (from 03:00 and 15:30) mainly due to space-heating needs. Cooking, space-heating and boiling water are the major household needs that drive the use of solid fuels in electrified low-income residential areas. The key to improving air quality in such areas is integrating fuel use intervention methods that the residents can afford and are readily accessible.

  • Burning events are longer in winter than summer.
  • Solid fuels are affordable, available, and easily accessible.
  • Electricity remains sparsely used for domestic purposes.


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Author Biographies

N.C. Nkosi, Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management, North West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa

MSc Student

R.P. Burger, Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management, North West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa

Job Title:  Senior Lecturer Telephone: +27 18 299 4269 E-mail: Physical Address:  Building E6, room G37 Campus: Potchefstroom Qualifications: MSc; Ph.D. Expertise: Atmospheric Research

C. Pauw, NOVA Institute, Pretoria, South Africa

Dr C J Pauw holds a BA, BA Honours and a BD degree from the University of Pretoria, all with distinction.

He received a DD degree on 4 May 2006 at the same university.

Since 1998 he has been involved in various research projects for the Nova Institute, the Dutch Reformed Church, the Willem Nicol Education Trust and the Christian Social Council. The research includes a strategic environmental analysis (SEA) and an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for a large petro-chemical business as well as numerous studies, pilot projects and full-scale implementations related to housing and domestic energy interventions.

S.J. Piketh, Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management, North West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa

Stuart Piketh obtained his Phd in Geography and Environmental studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg in 2000.   He was appointed as a full professor at North-West University in 2012  as Co-Chair of the Eskom Power Plant Institute (EPPEI) in the School of Geo and Spatial Science and as Director of this School in June of 2015. He is currently a NRF B-rated Scientist and a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa.  Over the past decade he has led research in atmospheric science focussing on the understanding of air pollution emissions, transport, and impacts.   His research has been conducted using surface monitoring stations, aircraft and the South African research ships, through which he has built a large network of international collaborators.   Stuart has trained more than 40 post-graduate students in the field of atmospheric research and air pollution.  Many of these students now hold prominent positions in both Government and the private sector.


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Photo by Josh Withers on Unsplash




How to Cite

Nkosi, N., Burger, R., Matandirotya , N., Pauw, C., & Piketh, S. (2021). Solid fuel use in electrified low-income residential areas in South Africa: The case of KwaDela, Mpumalanga. Journal of Energy in Southern Africa, 32(1), 58–67.