In the USA, a group of researchers at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico conducted a study into the nature of beneficial epidemics. The research began by defining the unit of transmission in beneficial epidemics as the ‘bene’ (pronounced BEN-ay). A bene can be a virus, a technology, or a behaviour change. Basically anything that confers an advantage and can spread through a population.

According to the group, the model revealed that beneficial epidemics spread in three different ways depending on the social structure and the various advantages and disadvantages for the individuals involved. The importance of this research for the energy sector could be for both governments and private sector organisations to watch for bene to be ahead of the curve and forecast changes in the market.

One such change in the market that is steadily gaining influence is energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy solutions by the fast-moving consumer goods and leisure companies. Taking cognisance of this bene is Africa’s largest hotel group, Sun International, who performed an energy audit identifying a potential energy savings of $2 million should an energy efficient model be adopted.

Another company flocking towards this socially acceptable bene is wine and spirit producer, Douglas Green Bellingham, who commissioned an 800kWp solar PV rooftop system. In true bene-style the company claims that this PV system is the largest in the South African wine industry, comprising of an estimated 2,600 solar panels. The system, built across four different roofs at the facility and covering an area of over 6,200 sqm makes it an impressive accomplishment, will spur similar organisations to lead-by-example.

Furthermore, Greenpeace Africa has joined the cliché and released a report highlighting the efforts that five South African-based anchor retailers have made towards becoming 100% renewable. The report includes data on the current status of renewable energy investments and commitments from each of the identified retailers, that being Woolworths, Checkers, Pick ‘n Pay, Spar and Massmart.

However, Penny-Jane Cooke, Climate and Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace Africa said: “Ranking the five retailers against one another makes it clear that none of them are doing particularly well when it comes to a commitment to a 100% renewable energy vision”. With various reasons slated for this lack of complete commitment from the retailers, it may be that the bene has not reached its pinnacle.

Whether it is South Africa’s energy tariff increases –  which are expected to raise electricity costs for businesses by 47% over the five year period from 1 April 2013 to 31 March 2018 – or the implications of climate change, or the proverbial axe waiting to fall in the form of the South African Carbon Tax bill (which incidentally has yet again been delayed) that are the moving force behind this bene, ultimately it makes business sense for any company’s bottom line.

Till next week, Nicolette

Editor: ESI Africa