After approaching UNDP for assistance, support was provided for the IeC programme through the international “Global Village Energy Partnership” (GVEP). Parallax was engaged from January 2005 until March 2006 to assess the IeC programme status and develop a business plan for future rollout that would meet the initial goals of sustainable, affordable access to energy supplies for poor communities. The business plan prepared by Parallax now forms the basis of the IeC programme.
One of the conclusions drawn by Parallax was that the IeC programme was based on a top-down solution without really identifying the broader energy demand of the target markets. Given the investment from the two high profile oil companies, the initial focus of plans for IeCs was, unsurprisingly, on the provision of liquid fuels and related products. This focus may be appropriate for IeCs in some areas, but the experience of Parallax suggested that access to other forms of energy, including renewable energy sources, could also have great potential to fulfill Government objectives.
By Feb 2007, the rollout was already going well. Five IeCs had been established and were operational. Some were making large profits, others were breaking even. These IeCswere all in the rural areas and of the filling station type. DME then discussed with several oil companies (PetroSA, Engen, Shell, BP) the establishment of some 7 new IeCs. The IeC programme was expected to run until 2015 and the aim was to have some 30 filling station type centres in operation by then and an information type centre in each of approximately 287 municipalities. The APPLES Project, in which Parallax leads the activity in rural areas, was supported by DME and examined alternative models for energy centres, reporting back in July 2008.