Case of the month - Cape Town



Cape Town Municipal Energy Efficiency Buildings Programme, Energy and Climate Change Action Plan

Cape Town (South Africa)
Managed and co-ordinated by the City’s Energy and Climate Change Unit

Implemented in 2010

Territorial scope

Target buildings  




Public buildings

 New buildings    

Private buildings
 Existing buildings
 Industrial, services, etc.

Main targets

  • Reduce by 10% the electricity consumption in 2012 on a regular basis;
  • Reduce by 10% the energy consumption of government operations;
  • Guarantee that 10% of energy consumption of town is produced by renewable sources by 2020;

Cape Town is a city highly dependent on energy, compared to other similar cities, facing other challenges such as poor energy security, rapid urbanisation and associated energy poverty, urban sprawl and vulnerability to the impacts of climate change.

The new Cape Town’s Action Plan for Energy and Climate Change is  an overall strategic document that aims to boost Cape Town to become a future low-carbon city. In 2010, the city adopted this new Energy and Climate Action Plan with a set of 11 strategic objectives, 40 programme areas and 120 projects, to achieve a significant reduction of high-carbon electricity consumption by increasing the energy efficiency and the use of cleaner and renewable energy sources. 

Policy development context

In 1998 occurred the first city experience with integrated plans on energy and Cape Town became a member of Sustainable Energy and Environment Development Programme.

In 2001, was included an Integrated Metropolitan Environmental Policy, showing the need to elaborate a sustainability agenda. The policy was composed by a group of strategic plans to fulfil the principles of an environment sustainable city, focusing in the important position of energy and its status to facilitate/block the development (in economical, political and environmental perspectives) of the region. As a consequence, the Integrated Metropolitan Environmental Policy looked for energy efficiency in all city´s functions and defended strategies to decrease the use of fossil fuels and solid´s waste, being necessary the support of experts to promote viable alternatives.

Following that, on 2006 were defined the goals to energy efficiency based on the City´s State of Energy report (a document responsible for the definition of the city´s profile on energy matters), resulting in a more serious approach to cover the need of making commitments and the development of a network in Cape Town around the subject.

To do it, Cape Town launched in 2008 the document “Energy for a sustainable city”, referred as one of the eight priority areas to focus on a five years plan – Integrated Development Plan and become the first city on Africa to create an Energy and Climate Change Strategy (registering its carbon levels inventory).

In 2009, the city established an Executive Management Team Subcommittee on Energy and Climate Change, along with three work streams established the following year. In May 2010, a full Council voted to approve the Energy and Climate Action Plan. This Action Plan made the City’s commitments operational, demonstrated its leadership role, and formed the basis to prioritise budget to implement, monitor and evaluate the city’s energy and climate change programme. In the same year, the Mayor of Cape Town was one of the 138 signatories of Global Cities Covenant on Climate, defined by the need to control and fight global warming through local measures, combining a delicate balance between energy, food, and job positions.

Action Plan objectives, programmes and projects

The Cape Town Climate Change Action Plan is an initiative from the Mayor of the city (through the Environmental Resource Management Department) and has 11 objectives of intervention, covering the following issues:  electricity consumption reduction, investment on renewable energy, sustainable infrastructures, resilience to climate change consequences, incremented research, raising awareness, learning opportunities activities at local schools, and development of a green market able to influence positively the community on a social, economic and environmental level.

This action plan included more than 40 programmes and 120 projects with practicable applications and priorities in accordance with the following criteria:

  • promoting the energy security through energy efficiency, renewable energy, public transport and the city compactness planning;
  • economic development through local energy business development, and job creation;
  • poverty mitigation through improved healthy/quality of live, or better access to urban goods;

It is managed and co-ordinated by the City’s Energy and Climate Change Unit, across all directorates and departments.

Municipal green building leading projects

The city is a major energy user on its own building stock. Therefore, the implementation of a number of pilot projects/programmes and efficient energy upgrades, could result on substantial savings to city coffers and attractive payback periods.

To achieve the objective of reduce 10% of energy consumption by 2012 in all council operations, the city government has introduced a set of 5 specific programmes:


  • Building retrofits – the selection of 16 municipal buildings to conduct energy audits and retroffiting interventions including installation of high-efficiency luminaires, air-conditioner control equipments, solar water heater equipments, and power factor corrections. The city’s building stock retrofit achievements are being used to promote retrofitting and behaviour-change programmes in residential and commercial buildings;
  • Upgrading the existing city rental stock – trough the installation of insulated ceilings, water meters, compact fluorescent lights and windows substitution to maximize the buildings thermal comfort and the energy maximum rentability;
  • Greening the city’s procurement policy – incorporation of green criteria and energy efficiency requirements into the council procurement processes and maintenance contracts;
  • Greening the city’s fleet – trough a comprehensive fleet-greening strategy which includes improving efficiency and decreasing emissions of existing vehicles and ensuring green key criteria for acquiring new vehicles;
  • Public lighting and traffic light retrofits – retrofitting of street lighting and traffic lighting systems through energy efficiency and demand-side management criteria;


Successful results

Despite being a recent policy, it already reached significant successes through specific projects. The electricity saving campaign has seen a market reduction in consumption in households and businesses, the Youth Environmental Schools (YES) programme has reached about 50.000 learners a year, and the commercial energy efficiency forum attracted more than 150 businesses to each meeting.


Maintaining the Cape Town’s international reputation and competitiveness is an additional imperative for reducing energy consumption and for pursuing larger quantities of renewable energy in its supply mix. In recognition of all the determinations to make the city an easier place to live and a lower carbon producer and the results already achieved, Cape Town won an international contest to suit the World Design Capital 2014.