by Hope Mashele

Energy optimisation

Sustainable energy usage is key to our economic development

The importance of energy efficiency initiatives cannot be undermined
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Eskom has been approved R5 billion for integrated demand management. This is great news for the sector, as it means it is valued at a minimum of R10bn for the next five years. This fund is supported by other funding such as the ‘Green Fund’, which Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has increased to R1.1bn.

Other energy efficiency funds such as African Development Bank funding through major banks such as Absa and Nedbank are also available, increasing the pie even more.

What this means for South Africa is that at least 250 000 jobs can be created by the sector in the next five years. Unemployed graduates will have opportunities to acquire skills in engineering and project management. Many artisans can also be employed if the companies in energy efficiency are compelled to employ a minimum number of artisans when they use the Eskom rebate and the Green Fund.

This, along with the youth subsidies, will encourage more jobs in the sector and associated sectors.

Energy efficiency reduces energy wastage, which is crucial in the current times, as South Africa is tight on generating capacity. Using just the Eskom rebates, savings of at least 5 gigawatts in electricity demand and in costs can be achieved.

The contribution of energy efficiency initiatives toward the country’s energy security cannot be undermined.

This has been a major contributor, in that no load shedding has occurred. Power stations have to undergo maintenance and have to be shut down during this period. When this happens, Eskom needs enough capacity to shut down the power stations, but still provide energy to the country. Load shedding leads to loss of confidence by international investors in economic growth and Eskom.

A country without energy cannot develop economically and socially. The logic is simple: companies not operating due to no electrical power make no profits.

Foreign direct investment cannot flow into a country without growth and energy security. We have seen how the port developments have been hindered by energy security as investors turn their backs on the country when investing in smelters and energy-hungry developments. With energy security, the country can then create more jobs and increase development as a whole.

A new mindset must occupy the talk and focus in every company and boardroom. Energy efficiency is a component of process and operations optimisation, but has not been fully accepted by the majority of South African industry.

We have enjoyed a long period of cheap electricity, and corporate South Africa is a little spoilt. Major transformation is required for optimised operations, even though the benefits are considerable and tangible. The time has come for corporates to embrace the low-carbon economy as part of their business sustainability strategy.

Companies not catching a wake-up call risk not being profitable in the medium- and long term. When companies save money using optimisation and energy efficiency, inflation is eased as consumer prices don’t climb steeply and quickly. Economically, this means growth. South Africa faces huge challenges in terms of the social and economic development of the majority of the population.

 

The global economic slowdown has done little to promote that focus, but that does not diminish the need. Growth is needed so that the country can have the ability to further develop rural industry and foster more economic activity, which cannot occur without access to electricity or energy. Energy efficiency is key to our development as a whole.

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