Mail & Guardian
Is energy efficiency your first step to a sustainable energy journey? Before you purchase renewables, first see where you can reduce your energy needs
With load shedding said to worsen by August this year, companies are scrambling to find alternative sources of electricity — and renewable energy is a viable but expensive alternative. Energy efficiency on the other hand could see savings immediately, not only saving companies on the bottom line, but also reducing the investment required in more expensive renewables.
According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) and the Copenhagen Centre on Energy Efficiency (C2E2), implementing energy efficiency and then deploying renewable technologies could be a viable option for energy crises, not only in South Africa but the world. Energy efficiency could result in the reduction of the global energy demand by up to a quarter by 2030. Energy efficiency could also account for between 50% and 75% of the total energy savings, with renewable energy delivering the rest.
In South Africa since 2011, the South African Industrial Energy Efficiency (IEE) Project has assisted 138 industrial companies to realise energy savings of 6.5 TWH, equivalent to five years of load shedding at the 2019 level of 1.352 TWH. This translates into cumulative cost savings of R5.3-billion for these companies.
The National Cleaner Production Centre South Africa (NCPC-SA) in fact won an international energy award for the impact of the IEE Project. The NCPC-SA has successfully implemented energy efficiency in companies of all sizes through optimising systems such as compressed air, motor, fans and industrial heat pump systems. It also introduces energy management to all areas of business, from installing efficient lighting and equipment and internal metering, to changing human behavior when it comes to switching lights and machinery on and off.
The companies that embarked on an energy efficiency journey have also benefited from a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, improved production quality and decreased water use. Economic benefits for these companies have been lower individual utility bills, job retention, and faster payback on capex expenditure.
“The success of the project proves that energy efficiency maximizes the use of existing power supplies and reduces the required generation capacity,” says NCPC-SA’S National Industrial Energy Efficiency Manager, Sashay Ramdharee. “It is important that companies do this before they invest in renewables, as their energy requirements could be significantly reduced.”
Energy management will often lead to the installation of renewable energy sources, and there are a number of viable options to choose from. The NCPC-SA believes that Biogas (gaseous fuel produced by the fermentation of organic matter) is an energy source and technology well suited to the African and South African context that is often overlooked.
According to Ramdharee, not only does biogas offer a potentially endless energy supply, it also addresses some waste issues, and could support emerging businesses in the process. In February 2021, the NCPC-SA launched a training course on small-scale agricultural and commercial biogas project development.
Potential biogas waste sources in South Africa include food waste, animal waste such as chicken manure and cow manure and numerous other agricultural waste streams. It is also clear that there is an opportunity here for landfill gas as well as municipal waste. The gas that is released from the decomposition is a blend of primarily methane and carbon dioxide.
The combination of energy efficiency and renewable energy is not only incumbent on companies, but also involves government, industry, selected regulatory bodies and education institutions. The NCPC-SA is a national support programme funded by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition. It is hosted at the CSIR, and with the funding of the IEE Project through the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, its services and advice on energy are highly subsidised and are often supplied at no cost.