Tag Archives: lesotho

What Could The Energy Transition Be for Thermal Energy Services in the Global South – Part 2

Following our previous post on cooking, this post will investigate space and water heating/space cooling needs.

Space and water heating/space cooling

Heating can be an important source of energy consumption in a number of developing countries located far from the Tropics. This function is often associated with cooking, where a central heating point is used both to cook meals and heat the house. Bio-digesters in countries like China, India or Nepal have been able to provide heat on top of cooking.

Another energy service which is more widely used – even if often not considered as a priority – is domestic hot water which can be provided with a solar water heater. South Africa has some very large programmes of dissemination of solar water heaters, notably in townships. Half of the population of Barbados has a solar water heater. Solar water heaters are a mature technology, which can be easily manufactured locally and relatively cheaply, most of the time sold on a cash basis or with a consumer credit.

david monniaux 2005 swh

Solar water heater used in the Cirque de MafateRéunion. “Solar heater dsc00632”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Solar_heater_dsc00632.jpg#/media/File:Solar_heater_dsc00632.jpg

Cooling renewable energy technologies are less available. For instance solar thermal cooling systems seem to exist mainly as large-scale technology; they tend to be complex to design and generally are quite costly. They are not considered in the STEPs project, which deals with the large-scale dissemination of medium scale collective or individual small-scale mature technologies.

Heat pumps imply dwellings of good quality with good insulation which is not a common occurrence in the case in poor communities.  Nevertheless ground-source heat pump could potentially be used at a larger scale (http://unu.edu/publications/articles/geothermal-energy-in-developing-countries-and-the-mdgs.html).


Energy-efficient insulation and passive housing have traditionally been the preserve of developed nations (for example, the developed German passive housing technology sector). However, the potential for efficient insulation and space temperature management with locally-sourced, low-cost renewable materials has been realised in a number of countries, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. This includes both traditional methods for adapting households in temperate developing countries, such as cladding and thatch roofing, as well as the more modern concept of passive housing, where thermal energy inputs (for example, from the sun) are used as part of the building’s thermal energy regime, enabling a reduction in the use of air conditioning methods.

Traditional housing for example in Lesotho is adapted to the variable temperatures of the mountain climate the country resides in, with rondavels (traditional huts) having conical thatched roofs and daubed exterior walls for insulation against the often cold climate, and warm air retention.


By K. Kendall (originally posted to Flickr as Rondavel, Gisela) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Business model examples and projects for efficient insulation in developing countries are few and far between. For instance, the iShack project in Enkanini, an informal settlement in Stellenbosch, South Africa in partnership with the University of Stellenbosch, is predominantly a fee-for-service solar home system project, where users pay a small monthly fee on top of a fixed installation cost for small (50-80W) solar home systems. However, the organisation is also expanding into sustainable insulation and other household services, particularly sustainable wastewater treatment and household-scale biogas installations for cooking.


Enkanini, Stellenbosch from the steps of the iShack hub. Image: Daniel Kerr

– Xavier Lemaire & Daniel Kerr – UCL


Thermal Energy Challenges in Rural Lesotho and an Opportunity to Leap to Modern Energy

Dr. Binu Parthan of SEA offers his thoughts on the thermal energy situation in rural Lesotho:

Lesotho is a land-locked country of over 30,000 km2 land area located in in southern Africa. The country with a population of over 2 million is one of the least developed countries with a low Human Development Index of 0.45 placing the country at 160 out of 185. Lesotho consists of highlands with altitudes ranging from 1400 m to 3400 m above sea level and is often called as the Roof of Africa. The country remains cooler than the surrounding region with average temperatures of 20⁰C in summer and -2⁰C in winter. Sesotho people live in traditional Rondavels and need energy for cooking and heating with 61% of the population however depends on solid fuels – firewood, shrubs, animal dung-cakes and crop residues for their thermal energy needs. In rural areas where 83% of households are located the dependence on solid fuels is significantly higher at 80%.  The modern sources available for cooking and space heating are LPG, Kerosene and Electricity the use of which is mainly confined to urban areas. The traditional and inefficient use of solid biomass fuels and the resultant indoor air pollution is also affecting the health of more than 1.6 million of the Sesotho with 200 annual deaths due to indoor-air pollution.

I had been working over the past year supporting UNDP and the Ministry of Energy Meteorology and Water Affaires (MEMWA) to scope and develop a new programme Lesotho Energy Alternatives Programme (LEAP) which will address electrical and thermal energy needs of the village in the country. The LEAP programme when implemented will establish Public-Private-Partnerships (PPP) managed by private operators in rural areas providing electrical and thermal energy to households. The village energy service providers will use a range of technologies -LPG cookstoves, efficient biomass cookstoves, LPG room heaters, efficient biomass heaters etc. through an energy service arrangement.  While the energy service arrangement for electricity is clearer, possible arrangements for thermal energy needs to be developed further. The LEAP upcoming programme in Lesotho provides a good opportunity for the STEPs project team to collaborate and support the piloting of models for thermal energy services delivery.

– Binu Parthan, SEA

CIMG0624A Sesotho woman, next to her Rondavel, her new LPG canister and old biomass stove. Image: Sustainable Energy Associates.