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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MTN SA supplements aggressive battery rollout with generator sourcing from small business  

As load shedding escalates across the country, MTN South Africa is working around the clock to protect customer’s connectivity, with an aggressive rollout of batteries, generators and alternate power supplies. MTN is also reaching out to small businesses to supply generators for its operations.   

Charles Molapisi, MTN SA CEO, says MTN’s priority is keeping its customers connected and to this end, the company is exploring practical and innovative solutions to the power crisis. “There is no doubt the country is facing a power crisis but at MTN, we want to turn this crisis into an opportunity for small businesses by ‘crowd sourcing’ generators to further support our network,” Molapisi says.  

MTN is inviting all businesses that are in possession of generators, to become potential suppliers to MTN. Whether the business has two or 20 generators, MTN is looking to partner. Michele Gamberini, the Chief Technology and Information Officer at MTN SA says increased load shedding is a challenge for battery recharging.  

“Despite us having placed thousands of batteries at our sites across the country, the efficacy of those batteries greatly reduces once we pass stage 4 load shedding.”    

Gamberini says MTN has upgraded its battery back-up solutions on over 80% of the sites already this year and is currently deploying more additional batteries. However, MTN is still faced with the challenge that the current outage schedule does not allow enough time for batteries to charge. Battery back-up systems generally take 12-18 hours to recharge, while batteries have a capacity of about 6-12 hours, depending on the site category.  Consistent outages therefore have a direct impact on the performance of the batteries, while consistent theft of the batteries themselves means replacements need to be installed,” Gamberini says. 

In addition to the battery rollout, MTN has also deployed over 2000 generators to counter the impact of stage 4 (and higher) load shedding. MTN is currently using more than 400 000 litres of fuel per month, to keep these generators operational.   

MTN has put power contingencies in place in all provinces. Some of these interventions are: 

  1. The establishment of “war rooms” per region with dedicated staff and network partners, focused on restoring major transmission infrastructure and base stations in the face of severe loadshedding.   
  2. The deployment of additional emergency generators and an optimisation of the existing fleet of MTN mobile generators. 
  3. The withdrawal of field maintenance teams, to allow them to be redeployed to focus on site restorations. 
  4. The delivery of fuel to all critical facilities, to ensure all MTN data centers remain operational. MTN does not anticipate any disruptions to any facilities. 

“To mitigate the risks, we have embarked on several emergency initiatives to ensure higher network resilience, despite the obstacles. We want to assure our customers that we are doing all we can to maintain connectivity during this challenging time,” concludes Gamberini. 

Molapisi says that as a company born out of South Africa’s democracy, MTN is tackling the load shedding crisis with a solution-orientated positive mindset, that is the hallmark of so many South Africans.  

“We need collective efforts to get us through this crisis and we believe that by partnering with businesses of all sizes and reach, we can both support local businesses while also maintaining our best network for all our customers,” Molapisi says.   

Businesses looking to partner with MTN, in the supply of generators, are invited to contact MTN on  

The minimum specification for generators include: 

  • 40kVA, petrol or diesel
  • 100 litres minimum capacity tank
  • Maximum noise level: 65dB 
  • Trailing cable: 10m. 
  • DIN 16 male plug.   

Suppliers will be subject to due governance and procurement protocols, albeit through a streamlined process.  

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Western Cape government calls for information on renewable projects to beat load shedding

11 Jun 2021

We are pleased to announce the publishing of a Request for Information (RFI) for our Municipal Energy Resilience (MER) Project, calling on all potential private and public sector organisations, including Western Cape municipalities, to provide information on renewable energy projects that would develop into new generation capacity in the Western Cape.

This is an important step forward in our MER Project which was launched last year to support municipalities to take advantage of the new energy regulations to generate, procure and sell their own power so that we can become more energy secure in the Western Cape.

Information submitted through the RFI will enable the Department of Economic Development and Tourism to consider options and develop the strategic approach to assist municipalities in the Western Cape to develop and/or procure new electricity generation capacity from all types of renewable energy generation and supply systems and technologies, including self-generation, battery energy storage systems, as well as hybrid generation and storage solutions.

The MER Project is just one of the many ways to build energy resilience and buffer businesses and households from the impact of load shedding in the Western Cape.

The announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa yesterday (10 June 2021) that Schedule 2 of the Electricity Regulation Act will be amended to increase the licensing threshold for embedded generation projects from 1 MW to 100 MW is a welcome move that will boost our initiatives to build energy resilience in the Western Cape.

To ensure we maintain momentum and move forward as quickly as possible, we need the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy to finalise Schedule 2 of the Electricity Regulation Act to provide further clarity and certainty to the market.

We remain in an energy crisis and large-scale private sector participation in energy generation, in partnership with the government, will be key to addressing the current shortfall in the Western Cape.


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Benefits of using a grid-tied system during the pandemic

Electricity continues to be a huge problem in our country during the pandemic, where further load shedding is being experienced due to cable theft. This not only impacts the residential sector but also both commercial and industrial power users. A solution to alleviate the lack of security of supply is by installing solar panels and batteries at businesses or households, especially at essential services such as hospitals where power is needed the most. Given the impact of the pandemic, hospitals need constant power to ensure patient’s care.

Solar panels coupled with a battery storage solution provides a good alternative for the medical fraternity. Such an installation results in reduced consumption of grid power, yielding immediate savings through a lower monthly electricity bill.

The Head of Engineering for IMPower Pty Ltd, Gabriel Kroes, explained that the solutions have been designed to partially displace municipal power with more affordable and cleaner energy. 

“These systems are therefore designed to save you money, however, they do not typically have the ability to function as standalone systems during a blackout/loadshedding as it does not include battery/storage technologies. Battery storage or generator integration would need to be added to enable the technology to function during a blackout,” said Kroes. 

Batteries are useful for in the following scenarios:

1.Curtailment Reduction/Deferral: Storing excess generation so that you can use it when you need it (if you have excess generation).

2.Arbitrage: Displacing “peak” energy consumption and therefore, peak energy costs. Basically swopping out solar energy or even cheap “off-peak” grid energy for “peak” grid energy, so that you can benefit from the cheaper tariff. This is called energy arbitrage. A simple example is to charge the battery at let’s say R1 per kWh during off-peak times and then to discharge this energy during peak times when energy charges would have been R2.50 per kWh. In this case, you are saving R1.5 per kWh for the energy that flows through the battery.

3. Backup: providing electricity when the grid is off. This is very similar to mini or micro-grid solutions where the solar PV and battery system operates as a “stand-alone” energy supplier to the off-taker. Usually, to save costs, these systems are only designed to provide power to essential loads such as emergency lighting, security, servers.

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Return of loadshedding confirms the need for implementation of IRP 2019

Intermittent electricity outages have come back in force while South Africa is experiencing an economic setback during the Covid-19 pandemic. The power disruptions, due to Eskom power station breakdowns, highlight the need for the implementation of IRP 2019.

The Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2019 is South Africa’s electricity infrastructure development plan for the procurement of generation capacity up to 2030. IRP 2019 supports a diverse energy mix and sets out nine policy interventions to ensure the security of South Africa’s electricity supply. The resource plan is based on the least-cost electricity supply and demand balance, considering the security of supply and the environment through the minimisation of negative emission and water use. Currently, coal is the main source for our energy supply and contributes more than 60% with renewable energy only contributing 11% to our power supply.

Recently, the government launched its inaugural Sustainable Infrastructure Development Symposium South Africa (SIDSSA) to plan its immediate infrastructure project pipeline aimed at reconstructing South Africa’s economic trajectory. At SIDSSA various investments in the energy sector were analysed. Eleven energy projects were chosen with an investment value of R270 billion. The projects could produce more than 2 000MW.

At an energy roundtable held as part of SIDSSA, Thsifhiwa Bernard Magoro, the recently appointed head of South Africa’s Independent Power Producer Office (IPPO), announced that Bid Window 5, the bidding round for the procurement of utility-scale renewable energy projects, would be launched in the second quarter of 2021. Magoro specified that the finalisation of bid documentation for the Risk Mitigation Power Purchase Programme (RMPPP) was a priority and the request for proposals for RMPPP would be released towards the end of July 2020. The IPPO aim to secure 2 000MW of emergency energy to fill an immediate supply gap that had been identified in IRP 2019.

The COO for the SA Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA), Nivesh Govender, responded that they are not convinced that the 2 000MW emergency round would be sufficient to address any short-term capacity restraints. SAPVIA has approached the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) and recommended that this should be increased to at least 4 000MW with 2 000MW of this being reserved for the Minister’s determination. Govender proposes that the second 2 000MW should remain open for bilateral self-generation builds. “These bilateral self-generation builds require slight regulatory adjustments and will achieve the quickest addition of power at no cost to the government,” Govender said.

During SIDSSA, the Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, indicated that the IRP for Round 5 would be published in March 2021. Govender believes that this timeframe coupled with the emergency round and storage acquisition will help achieve grid stability in the mid-term. “These procurements together with a robust self-generation programme will definitely contribute to the desired outcome,” Govender said.

There has also been talk of Eskom being able to access available excess capacity from current IPP projects. “While there is excess capacity available from a number of IPPs, this would require a process. The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy IPPO and Eskom would need to determine how this will happen. I assume they will engage with each of these projects individually and negotiate this. As far as I understand, this process has not moved,” added the SAPVIA COO.

“The IRP’s biggest opportunity is in low-cost electricity which would create additional operational and construction jobs and only consistency will open the prospect for domestic manufacturing of renewable components. Embedded solar energy can also contribute to ensuring energy security in the short- and medium-term which is now even more critical,” says Govender. The solar industry has a policy target to generate 6GW of energy by 2030 and will contribute to the procurement of 2 000MW of distributed energy by 2024.

“Implementation of the IRP is a valuable tool to kick-start our economic response to the pandemic and can go a long way to giving our country the stability and certainty of a reliable power source. Our economy and our future simply cannot afford the uncertainty that comes with the spectre of possibly again going through load-shedding,” concludes Govender.


6 800MW of solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind capacity for the years 2022 to 2024

513MW of storage to be procured for the year 2022

3 000MW from gas for the years 2024 to 2027

1 500MW from coal for the years 2023 to 2027

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Helpful tips to reduce your electricity bill

For many households, winter is usually an expensive time of the year when it comes to electricity costs. Most households tend to spend more on electricity during winter, but there are many cost-free ways to save.

Monitoring monthly energy consumption is one-way customers can save significantly. Whether a credit metering or a prepaid meter is used, know the tariff and keep track of how much electricity is used. It is important to be mindful of seasonal differences too as most homes use more electricity in winter.

Water-wise tips to save electricity

The biggest potential cost saver is the geyser.

Turn it off and only turn it on an hour or two as required per day. Turn the geyser down to 60°C. Turning your geyser down from 70˚C to 60˚C will see a 5% reduction in your hot water electricity bill.

Use less hot water. Tackle excessive use with more efficient habits:

Do not let the hot water run unnecessarily. Use cold water to wash hands instead of hot water. Use a basin plug when washing.

Shower instead of bathing. You will save up to 80% in water and use five times less electricity than heating bathwater if you take a short shower.

Electricity saving tips around the house

  • Dry your laundry using sunshine where possible and try not to use the tumble dryer. For rainy days, use drying racks indoors.
  • Replace regular bulbs with energy-saving ones, such as LEDs, that use six times less electricity.
  • Seal gaps around windows and doors to keep heat from escaping and cold drafts from breezing in.
  • When you switch off appliances at the wall, you could save up to 6% more electricity. Pull out the charger from the wall too, this adds to your savings.

Use a stove plate that’s most similar to the size of your pot.

An electric stove uses up to 40% of its heat when the pot is too small, which means you waste electricity. If you own an insulation cooker, bring your food to a boil then place it in there. The retained heat slow-cooks, saving up to 60% on energy.

Use warm water bottles instead of electric blankets to help keep electricity costs down.

The City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Energy and Climate Change, Councillor Phindile Maxiti said that reducing a household’s energy does not have to be an expensive endeavour. 

“Making smarter energy decisions not only saves money each month but also helps in our collective efforts to reduce the impact of climate change.”

It is important to note the City’s new financial year starts on 1 July 2020, with associated small but necessary price increases.

The City will resume residential meter-reading at a lower Covid-19 restriction level. When the actual billing resumes, customers could, however, see an increase in electricity usage, as more people were home during the National Lockdown period. This increase could reflect on municipal bills, but using electricity smarter could help households reduce the impact of higher bills too.

Consider switching to prepaid electricity, as prepaid metering will allow for easier monitoring on a month to month basis. With real-time awareness of electricity usage when using a prepaid meter, customers could see substantial drops in their energy consumption.  

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