HomeMagazine ArticleEnergy efficiency: A solution overlooked; missed opportunities?

Energy efficiency: A solution overlooked; missed opportunities?

Energy efficiency is multifaceted and, whilst covering generation, transmission and consumption, its value chain spans across design and retrofitting in construction, transport and industrial activity, writes Sisa Njikelana, Chairman of the South African Independent Power Producers Association.

One of the five pillars of the Stabilisation Plan, to mitigate the current South African electricity crisis, is intensification of energy efficiency solutions, especially plans to manage electricity demand through energy efficiency projects within households, and industrial and commercial buildings.

Besides this Plan, the energy conservation scheme 49M by Eskom and the energy efficiency drive by the National Cleaner Production Centre were among efforts to reverse and mitigate the situation.

Unfortunately, the practice is usually an emphasis on reducing consumption. Furthermore, the drive for energy efficiency has been relegated to demand side management, thus depriving us of the comprehensive benefits of energy efficiency.

During South Africa’s Parliamentary public hearings in 2012, the Energy Intensive User Group told MPs that there was not an effective strategy in place to address the issue of energy efficiency. The government’s 2005 Energy Efficiency Strategy was far from achieving the 12% 2015 improvement target and the strategy had a minimal effect, including the slow conclusion of the current revision of the strategy. Focus on liquid fuels/transport has, to date, unfortunately been neglected and is being restricted primarily to the conversion of vehicles to Liquid Petroleum Gas.

However, since 2005 the National Business Initiative, with other business organisations including Business Unity South Africa, has worked in the private sector to support voluntary efforts to drive energy efficiency. In 2011, this was superseded by the establishment of an Energy Efficiency Leadership Network as a joint initiative between government and business. In 2012 building regulations changed to include energy efficient measures including enhanced glazing on doors and windows. Another big drive to make all public buildings energy efficient is also in the offering.

Another project is the ‘Clean Energy Ministerial–Working Group (CEM-WG) on Cool Roofs’, whereby cool surfaces through high-impact, low-cost, shortpayback investment are supposed to cut net energy use and also help roofs and equipment to last longer, and improve the comfort of non air-conditioned buildings – while the opposite applies to galvanised roofs.

Eskom had an energy efficiency programme, funded from tariffs, which targeted 1,037MW demand savings and 4,055GWh energy savings over a three year period. Usage of light emitting diode lights, heat pumps and solar water heating is achieving savings. Through this initiative, over 54 million compact fluorescent lighting (CFL) bulbs have been distributed in the largest such programme in the world.

What’s to be done?

The construction of the ‘Virtual Power Station’, using world-class energy efficiency programmes, would be a fraction of the current costs of any coal fired power station. Re-socialisation including public education on energy efficiency is vital and, therefore, organised civil society has a role to play and a contribution to make. Civil society can persuade the ordinary citizen, as an individual, to ensure energy efficiency…

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