Private sector South African companies can tap into a UK government fund supporting energy efficiency as rising electricity prices create increasingly challenging business operating conditions.

In South Africa, the National Business Initiative (NBI) is promoting the fund of ZAR150 million (GBP8.6 million) from the UK’s Department of International Development (Dfid) to private-sector companies which “are still not proactively identifying opportunities to immediately enhance energy efficiency”, said Val Green, head of energy at the NBI.

Ms Green said: “Many low hanging fruits that would alleviate the pressure of energy price hikes and supply constraints while redirecting the savings back into the business for deployment elsewhere are being left hanging on the tree.”

Energy efficiency services

Under the Private Sector Energy Efficiency programme (PSEE), companies of different sizes can access subsidised services to improve energy efficiency, save costs and enhance long-term business competitiveness and sustainability.

The services are provided by experienced third-party consultancies with competencies in energy strategy, green buildings, HVAC, pumps, motors, lighting, compressed air and industrial processes, contracted by the PSEE and overseen by a team of programme managers and account managers.

Companies are eligible for different services based on their existing energy spend. Under the PSEE programme, small companies with an energy spend of up to ZAR750,000 can access fully subsidised workshops, publications and over-the-phone advice.

Medium-size companies with annual energy spend of between ZAR750,000 and ZAR45 million will receive energy audits, face-to-face help with identifying energy-saving opportunities.

Large companies that are spending more than ZAR45 million per annum on energy will be supported through 60 per cent subsidised, strategic energy management engagements to help improve operational energy efficiency and the development of an energy and carbon strategy.

Green said: “By coming on board with the PSEE, participating companies will have access to subsidised, professional consultants to assist with the establishment of energy consumption baselines, implementation plans, data gathering and benchmarking against global best practices, that will combine to create a sustainable business environment that places energy efficiency at its core, and most crucially, much of which can be achieved without any capital investment upfront.”

The NBI is also working with associations to promote the services to their members.

Commenting on work conducted with members of the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa (SEIFSA), Green said:  “Energy audits at two medium-sized SEIFSA member companies have already identified immediate savings of at least ZAR86 000 per annum without any capital investment whatsoever at one company.

“While at the second, a once-off capital investment of ZAR1.3 million will translate into ongoing annual savings of at least ZAR720 000, recouping the outlay in less than two years, where after its significant savings each and every year could be ploughed straight back to the bottom line.”