Original Research

Energy use strategies and implications for fire risk amongst low-income households

Alberto P.M. Francioli
Jàmbá: Journal of Disaster Risk Studies | Vol 12, No 1 | a890 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jamba.v12i1.890 | © 2020 Alberto P.M. Francioli | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 22 August 2019 | Published: 14 December 2020

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Alberto P.M. Francioli, Research Alliance for Disasters and Risk Reduction, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa


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Abstract

Despite near universal access to electricity in Cape Town, usage of informal electrical connections and nonelectric energy sources remains high and pose significant fire risk to such households. This research set out to examine the energy sources being utilised by low-income households in Lwandle, Nomzamo and Asanda Village to understand the factors that influence these energy use choices and what implications these energy choices have for fire risk. This research utilised a mixture of qualitative and quantitative data collection methods including focus group sessions with residents and a household survey to collect information on household energy use strategies, perceptions of safety and accessibility of energy sources and experiences of energy-related fires from residents residing in different types of dwellings. The research observed that despite high access to electricity, household utilisation is constrained by economic and physical factors. Consequently, they are forced to resort to employing an energy stacking approach, alternating between electric and nonelectric energy sources, which include usage of cheaper yet potentially hazardous energy sources such as paraffin (kerosene), candles, firewood, coal and gas to meet their daily energy needs. A potential consequence of this energy stacking approach employed by households to meet their energy needs is that the majority of households continue to face the risk of a dwelling fire caused by nonelectric energy sources. Whereas nonelectric energy sources were both perceived and experienced by residents as the main cause of dwelling fires in the study site, electricity was found to contribute to a number of dwelling fires, with a slight increase in the number of fires caused by electric sources observed over the last few years.

Keywords

energy; electricity; dwelling fire; risk; low-income residential area; energy stacking

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