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Energy Audit in Informal Settlements

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The Centre for Urban Research and Innovations (CURI) has collaborated with the UN-Habitat´s Urban Energy Unit to conduct an energy audit in informal settlements in Kenya. This research will address existing gaps in terms of consistent, relevant and adequate data on various types of buildings in informal settlements. It will allow formulating benchmarks, as well as identifying opportunities and energy saving potentials.

 Studies undertaken by the UN-Habitat indicated that human settlements consume over 70% of the world energy generation thereby leading to the emission of more than two thirds of Carbon dioxide (CO2) which is a main contributor of climate change. This has rapidly disintegrated into energy poverty which impairs economic development and the general living conditions of people. In order to address these challenges, urban planning and building design methodologies that are energy conscious and economic friendly need to be adopted.

On this basis, UN-Habitat in collaboration with UNEP and Governments of the East African Community(Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda)are undertaking a project ‘Promoting Energy Efficiency in Buildings in East Africa’ aimed at mainstreaming energy efficiency measures into housing policies, building codes, and building practices in East Africa. Energy audit in informal settlements raises questions such as; how can energy be conserved in an informal setting? This is because majority of structures in informal settlements are made of materials which do not conserve energy such as iron sheets or carton boxes.  

On examining informal settlements, majority of the commercial, manufacturing and industrial activities are undertaken in open area outside existing structures or along the road side. Undertaking an audit in such circumstances might prove challenging due to the absence of structures, yet such occurrences account for a very high percentage of energy use in informal settlements. The dynamics posed by energy use in informal settlements are diverse which therefore requires tact in conducting an energy audit.      

Commentators have acknowledged the acute need and associated challenges to provide quality energy services to disadvantaged people in the urban regions in sustainable ways. However the strategies and policies to tackle these challenges are yet to be fully understood thus necessitating a study that may help unravel possibilities for effective policy. This process requires projecting the energy use of urban poor households and subsequent carbon dioxide emissions, sustainable alternatives existing to minimize these trends and the achievement of energy and cost savings in realizing such alternatives.What existing policies can be aligned or implemented in informal settlements in Kenya? Are there existing technologies on energy efficiency that can be tapped into in informal settlements?

In order to carry out the audit, CURI selected three study areas in Kenya i.e. Mombasa, Nairobi and Kisumu. The three cities of Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu were purposely selected because they are the only three cities recognized by law in Kenya in addition to them experiencing unprecedented urbanization and population growth.

Within each of these cities, a sample of two informal settlements has also been chosen purposely as study sites. The selection of the specific informal settlements is based on two considerations i.e. an inner city slums and an outer city slum. Inner city and outer city categorization has been used mainly because there tends to be a difference in terms of housing typology in slums within the inner city and outer city areas

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