ngos energy sustainability
Wednesday, 3 October, 2012 - 09:34

The Paraffin Safety Association of Southern Africa, an organisation established to ensure the safe use of paraffin in poor households, is closing down in mid-2013, making way for the Household Energy Safety Association of Southern Africa, whose focus will be more on household energy safety

The Paraffin Safety Association of Southern Africa (PASASA) will close its doors in mid-2013 to make room for a new initiative, the Household Energy Safety Association of Southern Africa (HESASA).

PASASA was formed in 1996 by the South African Petroleum Industry (SAPIA) and has been funded mostly through the industry’s corporate social investment programme. Its primary role was to ensure the safe use of paraffin in poor households.

South Africa’s residential energy mix includes electricity, liquid petroleum gas, coal, paraffin, biomass and solar energy. At the time of PASASA’s formation, the improper use of paraffin had serious health and safety impacts. Faulty paraffin stoves, fires and paraffin ingestions accounted for the majority of domestic energy-related incidents.

These energy-related injuries are a serious problem in the country as they cause emotional, financial and physical damage to many communities, particularly in low-income areas.

PASASA’s recent surveys indicate that 60 percent of residents in informal settlements do not have access to electricity. A large number of electrified and non-electrified low-income households use paraffin for its affordability, portability and availability.

However, the picture has changed in recent times. SAPIA says paraffin sales have decreased substantially and that a few members no longer distribute paraffin for domestic consumption. In addition, the Minister of Energy, Dipuo Peters, has called for SAPIA to support government’s Integrated Energy Centres Programme and the effort to promote liquified petroleum gas as a domestic energy fuel. The global economic crisis also requires that companies cut costs and other paraffin sellers seem to be implementing paraffin safety initiatives themselves instead of doing it through PASASA.

These are just some of the reasons leading to PASASA’s closure. As required by labour legislation, we have started communicating with staff and there is a process in place to manage retrenchments.

The organisation is proud of our achievements over the past 16 years. It trained 500 000 individuals in paraffin safety, won the 2006/2007 NSTF Award for outstanding contributions to science, engineering and technology, and developed training courses and education materials available in all South Africa’s 11 official languages.

In the meantime, PASASA also had meetings with petroleum companies and the Department of Energy to look at launching a new initiative that will focus on household energy safety, rather than just paraffin safety.

South Africa has alarmingly high rates of harmful domestic energy-related incidents.

Houses need to be constructed with energy safety in mind. Low-income housing generally does not provide proper ventilation, space, counters, light and insulation. The Department of Human Settlements and other relevant agencies can work together to develop fire-retardant, low-cost homes, particularly in informal settlements.

HESASA hopes to work with partners to develop a household energy safety policy. The policy will encourage competition and innovation in the local manufacturing of paraffin appliances.

Household energy safety should be a national priority. We believe there is a need for a comprehensive framework to support current energy policies, addressing key issues of access, affordability, efficiency, safety, health, supply, availability and the environment.

Public awareness programmes are needed to educate consumers about their rights, energy risks and how to prevent injuries.

The organisation is in the process of recruiting board members for a new organisation, HESASA, and the necessary registration process has taken effect.

Its board of directors, management team and staff are committed to making HESASA a successful legacy project.

The success of the framework will depend on cooperation between various national departments, civil society organisations, research institutes and regulators. We will continue to work closely with various organisations, including the South African National Energy Development Institute, to address energy provision, security, safety and supply.

The focus needs to shift from electrification to include all of South Africa’s energy carriers. We cannot address the country’s energy issues until we acknowledge our diverse energy mix.

PASASA hope HESASA will emerge as a strong resilient nonprofit organisation, ready to face the challenges related to safe household energy usage and safety.

- This article was produced by the Paraffin Safety Association of Southern Africa.

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