This research project proposes to develop a water, energy and food nexusing approach that increases resilience capabilities in the Cape Town Metropolitan region. The water-energy-food nexus has emerged as a framework for integrated resource management. To date, however, the practical adoption of nexus approaches into governance practices and policies has lagged behind policy ambitions. The contention of this proposal is that to increase the scientific and societal value of nexus approaches, an expanded view on nexusing processes is required.
Therefore, this project will critically explore the water-energy-food nexus through three main points of departure: the first is to understand the multi-dimensional interaction of water, energy and food systems. The second is to assess how the water-energy-food nexus materialises in selected socio-spatial contexts in Cape Town. Thirdly, the aim is to
understand the wicked governance challenges of mitigating, coping with, preparing for, and adapting to urban resource crises. Finally, the project will develop multi-scale procedural guidelines and policy briefs to inform nexusing practices. To achieve these objectives, the research adopts a complex systems approach which systematically addresses the multi-dimensional nature of the water-energy-food nexus. Through a multi-disciplinary approach and in close collaboration with societal partners, WEF nexusing will be explored as a broader process-oriented approach to howresources do, and can, interact and be governed across siloed domains.
This is a crucially important endeavour in the city of Cape Town which faces a triple exposure to interrelated water, energy and food crises. Through this expanded perspective, and emerging from the urgent need for concerted urban action, this broader view of nexusing will be framed through the conceptual lens of urban resilience. The research will assess the vulnerabilities and resilience of complex system interactions to develop recommendations for coordinating resilience strategies that work complementary to existing governance arrangements.
How can the energy transition produce positive effects on social equity in rural and urban contexts?
A consortium led by the Urban Futures Studio aims to illuminate how the transition from fossil to renewable energy can be leveraged to address the Sustainable Development Goals, specifically SDG7 (transition to renewables) and, while doing so, deliver on SDG5 & SDG10 (reducing inequalities) and SDG16 (inclusive and just institutions). The consortium, consisting of leading institutions from South Africa, Germany and India (see research team below), investigates how investments in the energy transition can improve on social equity in diverse rural and urban contexts.
An unjust transition?
Climate change and rising social inequality are two of the biggest challenges of our time. The ‘energy transition’ from fossil to renewable energy will be a key determinant of “who gets what, when, and how” (Lasswell, 1936). We argue that the infrastructures for renewable energy may, in principle, ameliorate inequalities resulting from carbon economies. However, recent evidence suggests these potentials are not fully exploited. Indeed, it suggests that incumbent interests are rapidly gaining control over infrastructure investments and thereby negatively affecting the social equity agenda. Therefore we argue that an unjust transition is distinctly possible.
The software of policy regimes
ReSET compares four case studies: Germany, India, the Netherlands and South Africa. We analyse how the energy transition can produce more social equity. In each country context we are interested in understanding how the software in the form of policy regimes, determines the flow of investments in the hardware of energy infrastructures. Together with diverse stakeholders, we aim to develop a framework and concrete insights that can inform future policies.
In each country, the project will look at alternative pockets in urban and rural areas where renewable energy development is connected to a social equity agenda. In these ReSET alternatives it looks at different actors - municipalities, entrepreneurs, development banks, social movements, and others - how these actors are enabled and constrained by policy frameworks.
Agents of change
During our research we aim to build up a community of practice and communicate findings as the project proceeds. In each country we collaborate with stakeholders like citizens cooperatives, municipalities, social movements, investors and entrepreneurs. Special attention is paid to internationally operating development banks, whom we see as key agents of change.