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Energy efficiency not just in the hands of plant operators and building managers

Jayesh Ranchod, divisional director at EOH: energy infrastructure and services, industrial technologies cluster says the world today is characterised by considerable changes. “Mega trends in the form of urbanisation, future infrastructure development, connectivity and convergence, climate change, and renewable energy are some of the major challenges we face on the African continent that are driving the way we conduct business. All these developments result in an increased demand for solutions that meet the challenges of the ever-evolving and complex energy environment.”

He says that a reliable, economical, and environmentally compatible power supply is the key to sustainable development. “We have headed into a new energy age, in which energy is becoming more important, more complex, and more demanding. It is an era that holds both tricky challenges and outstanding opportunities. Innovation, efficiency, and environmental responsibility will be the key drivers toward success in this new energy age.

“Over the past few years, and especially as a result of the recent recession, a shortage of energy supply and increasing energy costs, organisations have become increasingly focussed on energy consumption and its impact on their bottom lines. More and more organisations recognise energy management efforts are essential to staying competitive from both a financial and a corporate image perspective.  However, while businesses are increasingly motivated to manage energy consumption and costs, they are also finding it more challenging as they attempt to link energy management to overall business strategy and drive changes throughout the corporate organisation.

“Energy management is no longer just the purview of plant operations or building management; it is increasingly viewed as a strategic business driver to the enterprise and energy management, energy efficiency and sustainability are fast becoming important items on the organisational corporate agendas together with skills shortage, industry specific expertise and appropriate allocation of financial resources.

“The drive towards improving energy efficiency is due largely to increasing cost pressures. As energy costs continue to rise, organisations are increasingly looking towards saving energy costs, which mean reducing consumption and becoming more energy efficient. This cost saving exercise is augmented by increasing social and environmental awareness, as well as by legal requirements.”

These currently include the need for all Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE)-listed companies to include sustainability and carbon emission reductions as part of corporate reporting. Ranchod says, “However, there are several other laws in the pipeline around energy consumption and carbon emissions, and organisations need to gear themselves towards meeting these criteria as well. Lastly, regulatory, legal and compliance issues must be speedily resolved by all stakeholders to provide a stimulating and liberal environment to enable energy infrastructure development at both the utility and end-user levels; e.g. distributed generation, renewables (roof-top PV) and net-metering.”

He says that from a broader infrastructure and growth perspective, the development of a stable and efficient energy infrastructure is critical. This is applicable to both the development of new growth required infrastructure as well as getting the maintenance back-log rectified on existing systems.  “Furthermore, in support of the supply-demand dilemma, there are many interventions that can be done to reduce energy consumption, however addressing these issues in isolation means that organisations fail to achieve the important big picture view of their overall energy usage. Improving energy efficiency is a journey, and it pays to remember each of the steps taken should work towards the ultimate goal – holistic, integrated and all-encompassing energy management.”

Ranchod’s view is that energy management is continuingly gaining momentum. “As such, developing and executing effective energy management strategies and programs may, in the long run, be as much about staying in business as it is about having a competitive advantage. Experience has already demonstrated that success in this area is not easy. Stepping back, surveying the landscape both internally and externally, and gauging relative position may be the most important next step to a company’s future success in the energy management arena.

Energy efficiency is the world’s most preferred intervention designed to reduce carbon emissions coming out of the burning of fossil fuels. The current and future electricity supply shortages further requires an intensified and consolidated implementation of energy efficiency and Demand side management programmes.

“Lastly, meeting today’s complex energy requirements requires a service provider to be highly aware of the impact of its technologies, solutions, and services. This not only extends to the environment but also to the communities in which it operates. Vigilance about the use of energy is a vital component in any organisation’s success. Technology should also not be seen as the saviour to all issues, but rather we need to ensure that the fundamentals are all in place and then use technology as an enabler to further enhance organisational productivity and efficiencies. A case in point is the use of renewable energy like Solar PV without ensuring operating in-efficiencies like, lighting & HVAC are optimised prior to the installation of a PV solution. The big picture view is thus of paramount importance.”

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