Energy politics at the margins: The case of Qandu-Qandu, South Africa
Off-grid energy infrastructure is now an established area in Geography, with its heterogeneous and varied socio-technical characteristics acknowledged across a range of countries in Africa. In this paper, I build on this body of knowledge by showing how innovative energy solutions in off-grid settings can constitute their own politics, where the introduction of safer forms of energy, such as solar, can have profound implications for everyday life. This view diverges from existing accounts of static or uniform notions of heterogeneity identified in Geography and the Social Sciences by purposefully placing precarity and the ever-evolving landscape of energy options front and centre. Drawing on an empirical example of Qandu-Qandu, South Africa, I use mixed methods (in-depth interviews and energy use statistics) to expose the dynamism of energy systems in flux by exploring the use of off-grid solar energy options for cooking, heating, and cooling in the community for the first time. Findings highlight the significance of solar tower placement, technical specifications, and financing options for defining energy access and use and how these factors helped to define the fragmented, overlapping, and complimentary ways residents drew on, or were able to draw on, energy. In conclusion, I consider the power struggles associated with infrastructure-led development, including the need for wider narratives around sustainability transitions.