This week marks the start of the iShack pilot project in Enkanini. Based on nearly 2 years of research and development based on the single iShack built by students, this week’s work began by retrofitting 20 shacks in Enkanini. They will each have a 75-watt panel that will provide them with 2 internal lights, one external security light (activated by a motion sensor) and a 12-volt television. Two different types of carefully designed metering systems will be tried and tested during this pilot. If the metering systems can be perfected, it will be possible to launch an entrepreneurial model that empowers communities to co-produce their own energy.
However, the system will only be financially viable if the Free Basic Electricity grant applicable to ALL South Africans can be applied to shack dwellers not connected to the grid. To date, shack dwellers are denied their rights to free energy and water because they are not grid-connected. The iShack solution is not a technical solution, it is a social organising strategy to ensure that shack dwellers access what is rightfully theirs without first being connected to the energy and water grids. It is, in short, about safe off-grid energy that generates a revenue flow that partly covers the operations and maintenance of the system.