The rising cost of electricity and increased demand on the national grid, along with the government's introduction of a National Energy Efficiency Strategy, are encouraging South African businesses to implement energy-efficient initiatives and technologies, US-based business consultancy Frost & Sullivan said last week.
New research from Frost & Sullivan, titled Energy Efficiency and Large South African Commercial Businesses, finds that South African companies are becoming more aware that reducing energy usage will lower operating expenditure, improve profit margins, and enhance both their brand image and their competitiveness in a country that is striving to become a carbon-neutral economy.
In the 2013/14 financial year, according to the study, peak demand savings by large South African corporates grew to 141 megawatts (MW), from 22 MW in 2012/13.
"The introduction of the National Energy Efficiency Strategy (NEES) by the South African government to achieve certain social, environmental and economic targets by 2015 is promoting energy efficiency and sustainable practices among businesses," Frost & Sullivan's head of energy and environment, Cornelis van der Waal, said in a statement.
"The NEES aims to improve energy efficiency by 15 percent in the commercial sector, which currently uses nearly 10 percent of the country's energy."
Van der Waal said South Africa's commercial sector could begin by implementing simple measures such as monitoring lighting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning use, installing technologies like variable speed drives that have shorter payback periods, and using default energy-saving settings on computers.
"There is already a growing interest in the replacement of halogen light bulbs with more efficient light-emitting diodes," he said, adding that power utility Eskom was offering financial incentives for saving energy, real-time metering, training staff on energy efficiency, and planning energy management projects effectively.
Large commercial businesses in South Africa could further cut down on energy consumption by investing in efficient motors, water heating systems, proper building management, and regular maintenance. Conducting energy-saving audits would also help companies establish benchmarks and identify other areas in which they could save energy, the researchers said.
They noted, however, that the of lack of staff with the requisite skills, as well as the high capital cost of energy-efficient equipment, was preventing companies from implementing energy management projects. In addition, most businesses still did not consider energy efficiency as a core function of their brand and operations.
"To ensure that energy efficiency becomes a culture in South Africa, large commercial businesses should invest in initiatives that positively influence the perception of energy consumers and encourage the adoption of sustainable practices," Van der Waal said. "They could then implement projects that will optimise resources and be most profitable for their particular business."