Energy efficiency: the key to sustainable wastewater infrastructure

With no end in sight for loadshedding, it’s important for municipalities to start engaging in energy efficient mechanisms in their water and wastewater infrastructure. 

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National water week, an opportunity to tap into new standards

South Africa can significantly improve water and energy efficiency by aligning its tap labelling programme with international standards, according to a new study released ahead of National Water Week marked on 20 to 26 March 2022. The week aims to raise awareness and call to action renewed value for this scarce resource. 

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Electrolux & PowerOptimal Announce Pioneering African-born Solar PV Smart Geyser Solution

This unique smart geyser system transforms the installation, maintenance, energy efficiency, and overall cost of geysers for property developers, insurers and households.

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GBCSA urges building owners to know and show their energy performance

By next December, some non-residential buildings will be required by law to display an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), which demonstrates the efficiency or inefficiency of a building. This is done by measuring the building’s energy-use intensity and giving it a colour-coded score from A-G, like the energy rating you would find on appliances.

In the same way that drivers check the fuel consumption of a car before renting or buying it, knowing the energy performance of a building empowers potential buyers or tenants to make a more informed decision.

It is hoped that this will be a great boost for energy efficiency in South Africa, since the first step toward lowering energy consumption is knowing energy consumption. The new regulation requires that energy data is collected over the period of a year, to get an adequate measure of the building’s energy use. Thus, building owners will see how their buildings compare against the SANS 10400-XA benchmark energy usage intensity value.

Once information on a building’s energy performance is publicly displayed, it will be much harder to justify operating an inefficient building. Buyers and tenants do not desire to move into a building that will be more expensive to run and will be a drain on the planet’s resources.

EPCs in South Africa

To obtain an EPC, a building owner will need to gather some of the building information – the electricity consumption data for a year, the net floor area, information on the areas excluded, vacancy rates – and contract a South African National Accreditation System (SANAS) accredited inspection body (IB) to audit the information. The IB submits the energy performance value to the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI), which inputs it into the National Building Energy Performance Register.  A unique number for the EPC is generated and sent to the SANAS accredited IB, who then issues the EPC to the client for display.

The National Building Energy Performance Register will assist with future benchmarking of building energy consumption and track progress toward achievement of the targets set out in future EPC regulations.

Before joining the Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA), CEO Lisa Reynolds played an important role in the development of SANS 1544, the South African National Standard, which governs EPCs. “The old adage “if you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it” is the basis for the EPC Regulations. The energy usage of the South African existing building stock is unknown. How do we improve on an unknown? By measuring it – and ultimately improving on it,” says Reynolds. 

The Stellenbosch University Admin B building is the first in South Africa to achieve an EPC. The building received an A-rating for electrical consumption of 48kWh per square metre per year. The University has been collecting data for several years and the data verification was completed by Bluedust Engineering Solutions. This information was handed to Mess Energy Management and Validation Service, which is accredited by SANEDI to issue EPCs.

The challenge is now on to see which building in South Africa will be the next to get its Energy Performance Certificate.

The GBCSA is providing training workshops on EPCs in two parts/sessions. The first one is for building owners, facilities managers and consultants interested in understanding more about the EPC process and the second session must also be attended for those wishing to become SANAS accredited inspection bodies. Click here for more information.

Towards Net Zero

Understanding the energy performance of a building is a vital first step on the journey to a net-zero carbon building, which is the ultimate goal for the GBCSA. From knowing the energy usage intensity of a building; leading to the energy efficiency retrofitting of that building and ultimately the retrofitting into a net-zero carbon building.

The GBCSA strongly advocates for net-zero carbon buildings. These are very highly energy-efficient buildings, with the remainder of the power required for the operation of the building provided by renewable energy sources.

The motivation for net-zero carbon buildings is driven by South Africa’s National (National Development Plan goals) and local climate change commitments, which include the C40 Global Net Zero Carbon Buildings Declaration. Johannesburg, Tshwane, Cape Town and eThekwini are C40 cities and signatories to the 2018 declaration, alongside 24 other global cities. These cities have committed to developing regulations and/or planning policy to ensure new buildings operate at net zero carbon by 2030 and all buildings reach net-zero carbon status by 2050.

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Renewables, energy storage and the future of smart cities

Smart cities are a topic of constant conversation, and they’ve already come to fruition across the globe.

From Singapore to San Francisco, organisations, government officials and city planners have made incredible efforts to support the development of intelligent communities. According to a recent report by IHS Technology, there will be at least 88 smart cities all over the world by 2025, up from 21 in 2013. While the majority of these are likely to be located in Asia, Europe is expected to be home to more than thirty.

With smart cities and the general population on the rise, one of the major issues facing industry leaders today is how to power these interconnected cities effectively and efficiently. As a result, many global leaders have publicly asked for a suitable and sustainable answer – one that would support critical infrastructure yet not add to the global emissions challenge.

While joblessness and migration from rural poverty to anticipated urban wealth has led to rapid urbanisation in South Africa and elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, putting pressure on limited resources, designing smart cities – or even including elements of smart cities in existing metropolises, may help communities leapfrog obstacles that would impede more complex locations.

The increasing need for such a solution, coupled with the dropping costs of renewable technologies, has made the transition to a fossil fuel-free environment more likely than ever before. In the last year alone, global renewable energy investment has increased to the point where it’s now surpassing investment in fossil fuels, according a recent UN report.

From wind to solar, nations all over the globe are taking advantage of this shift to create innovative and energy efficient solutions from natural power. In Saudi Arabia, a $200 billion solar power development has just been signed off, potentially tripling the country’s electricity generation capacity. Over in China – one of the most highly populated countries in the world – the Jiuquan Wind Power Base, also called Gansu Wind Farm Project, was recently approved by the government. The windfarm, which is currently installing capacity of more than 6,000 MW, is projected to grow to a total of 10,000 MW, solidifying China’s ambition to be a global leader in renewable energy.

South Africa is home to eight of the ten largest solar plants in Africa, including the 175MW Solar Capital De Aar Project, the 100MW KaXu Solar One project (South Africa’s first commercially operated thermal electric power plant), and the 100MW Ilanga-1 CSP Plant, among others.

What’s next

Though renewable energy is the way of the future, there are still some concerns about how this will all be feasible – especially as our cities continue to get bigger, smarter and more demanding. This uncertainty has led many industry leaders to start asking valid, but tough, questions. For example, as renewable energy from wind and solar is weather dependent, will we be able to be permanently independent of coal, oil, and natural gas? And with the shift to electric cars, will our energy system be able to handle the increased demand on the grid?

The answer? While clean energy technologies are evolving tenfold, much more flexibility will be necessary for these energy sources to provide the reliability we require. This includes investing in interconnected systems, having ample control over when and how we use energy, and most importantly – safe, reliable and efficient energy storage.

Today’s energy storage solutions provide business owners with the unique opportunity to not only invest in renewable energy projects, but to also benefit from their excess.

The surplus energy that is generated from renewable sources, such as solar or wind, is stored and used later when they are no longer generating energy – further eliminating emissions from imported electricity. This excess energy can also then be sold back to the grid, giving business the chance to improve on their own return on investment, while lowering overall energy costs.

Business benefit for energy storage

Investing in battery storage projects like Eaton’s microgrid also enables businesses to ensure reliable power continuity during grid outages – especially during peak times. This is particularly interesting for financial investors, as many see this as a way to play on the grid service markets. 

There is no doubt that smart cities are the future – and many would even argue they are our present. But given their environmental impact, and their ability to put vast amounts of pressure on the grid, the way that they’re currently set up is simply unsustainable.

The need for renewable energy sources has come to a head, and while many nations are taking the right steps forward, more needs to be done.

A strong, efficient, and sustainable future depends on the creation of smart technologies to provide flexibility – and energy storage is just the first step.

Because without sustainability, the smart cities we envision are likely to remain closer to fiction than reality.

By Seydou Kane, managing director for Eaton Africa

Eaton has been in Africa since 1927 with offices in South Africa, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Morocco and Nigeria, with 200k ft².of manufacturing space located in South Africa and Morocco. For more information visit

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‘Prosumers’ have the potential to shift and disrupt the energy landscape

By Seydou Kane, Managing Director Africa, Eaton’s Electrical Sector

Modernising the current energy infrastructure in South Africa will dramatically change the energy utility business model, as industrial and private energy consumers now have access to technology that allows them to produce, store and distribute energy.

Parties that are able to do this are known as ‘prosumers’ – producer-consumers – and they could be manufacturers, businesses, or groups of consumers that have the potential to cause a shift in the structure of the energy industry.

At present, energy is mostly unidirectional: Eskom produces electricity, which is then distributed and sold to industrial, commercial and residential consumers, either directly or via municipalities. Post-lockdown, as businesses emerge into an environment still threatened by the prospect of load-shedding and extreme energy price increases, many are likely to consider going ‘off-grid’, or at least, finding ways to supplement their power needs with renewable energy resources.

This creates the opportunity for a major shift, with the possibility that the electricity network and grid will evolve in such a way that individuals or companies will be able to receive or resend energy to the grid. This is a shift in the structure of the industry, creating the scope for bidirectional flows of energy, where individuals or companies can both draw energy from the grid at a cost, or send energy into the grid, in return for payment.

While there is a tendency to believe that the most natural likely prosumers would be individuals with solar panels at their residence, it is likely that larger users like manufacturing sites could do the same. It’s even plausible that residential estates could look to installing their own microgrids, to create more resilience in the face of the power utility’s inconsistencies – a microgrid energy system provides a reliable, efficient and sustainable solution to overcome unexpected power loss.

This has come about because of a power shift where consumers – residential and commercial – are taking accountability and responsibility back, and the hardware and technology in South Africa exists for them to go off-grid if they want to. Indeed, South Africa has the most sophisticated grid and energy market on the African continent, and what happens here will lead continental trends in the decentralisation, decarbonisation and the digitalisation of energy.

The most important development that has made this shift possible is that energy storage costs have dropped by up to 90% in the last eight years or so, mainly driven by the adoption of electric vehicles, lithium ion batteries and nickel manganese chrome, used in electronics.

Apart from dramatic drops in costs, batteries have evolved to have a much smaller footprint, and they weigh less than before too, despite having a greater capacity.

From a software point of view, battery management systems (BMS) have evolved to include more capacity for artificial intelligence (AI), so that the system monitors and learns users’ behaviour. The system then adapts its energy generation and storage behaviour to align with user patters, to optimise for cost and capacity. Developers have also focused on improving the overall safety of these systems.

The big challenge that South Africa faces is how the monopoly utility and municipalities will adapt to this change, because prosumers have what they need to operate. The big challenge is that Eskom is R450bn in debt, and municipalities that need to balance Eskom and end user requirements, complicated by the fact that the utility is not able to provide enough energy when required.

The key question for the future is how will utilities like Eskom survive if industries and homeowners are able to go off grid – and even sell their surplus energy to one another? A utility’s success is based on its ability to plan its generation to meet demand – so how will they evolve once energy consumers are able to do as they please?

Power is fundamental to create jobs, for a country to develop, to grow – access to power is one of the key requirements for any economy to progress. If a community cannot access power, it’s first response is going to be trying to identify an alternative means of generating that power.

In our role as a power management company, Eaton is agnostic as to where power comes from, but we remain intrigued by the different sources of energy, different types of energy

storage solutions, and the technology required to manage them. It is indeed an exciting time to play a role in South Africa’s energy future.

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Golden Arrow Bus Services drives energy efficiency

Cape Town-based Golden Arrow Bus Services (GABS) saved R1.8 million in one financial year thanks to robust energy-efficient practices such as optimized maintenance and fuel efficiency through driver training and a modernized fleet.

This was a result of the company’s energy efficiency practices that led to a saving of 6 767 153 kWh (energy equivalent) for the year which qualifies it for the 12L Tax Incentive (Section 12L).

The Section 12L application process which is implemented by SANEDI (South African National Energy and Development Institute) applies to all energy carriers (not just electricity) with the exception of renewable energy sources. To claim for the deductions, an organizations’ savings measurements must be kWh equivalent.

“Golden Arrow Bus Services is an excellent example of an organization that doesn’t necessarily spring to mind when one thinks of qualifying Section 12L businesses.  The company has shown tremendous commitment to saving on energy through efficient processes that consistently deliver results year-on-year and is a worthy recipient of the tax incentive’s various benefits,”

arry Bredenkamp, General Manager at SANEDI

GABS is a scheduled passenger transport operator for the City of Cape Town and operates over 1 000 buses during peak hours, serving 1 300 routes. To improve fuel efficiency, the company consistently introduces modern and optimised buses to its fleet. 

The MAN LION EXPLORER buses – added to the GABS fleet – feature DO8 and D20 common rail engines which operate at improved fuel efficiency. Additionally, these modern buses use lightweight components that further reduce fuel consumption (per kilometre) and also have optimised passenger-carrying capacity, again saving on fuel and subsequent energy.

To assess GABS’ energy savings and subsequent eligibility for the Section 12L Tax Incentive, Catalyst Energy Solutions (CES), a division of Catalyst Incentive Solutions, performed the requisite measurement and verification of the energy efficiency savings.

It was found that GABS’ modernised fleet and other energy efficiency practices led to a reduction of 2.5 percent energy consumption per year and mitigated 2 014 tCO2e (Tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) GHG (Greenhouse Gas Emissions) annually. This all led to savings of 6 767 153 kWh (energy equivalent) and R1.8 million after tax benefit.

The Section 12L tax incentive has since its inception in March 2015 Section 12L has delivered more 24.747 terawatt-hours (TWh) in energy savings which equates to a total gross rebate of R19 903 billion to local organisations. 

The regulations for Section 12L set out the process and methodology for claiming an allowance for energy savings, a baseline (benchmarking) model and reports must then be compiled and submitted SANEDI for approval. 

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