|Energy efficiency could be the immediate solution to higher energy demand, while renewable energy sources were being considered for long-term energy sustainability, energy experts said on Wednesday. Global energy industry players attending the Power and Electricity World Africa conference in Johannesburg said South Africa should focus on energy efficiency as “another fuel” that can be used to improve power supply reliability, particularly considering past and anticipated power interruptions in South Africa.
Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, US, chairperson Eric Callisto noted that energy efficiency should become a regulatory issue from a financial point of view, as investment in energy efficiency is much more affordable than building and operating power plants.
“It also promotes local economic development and energy independence, and holds real financial and comfort benefits to residential owners. It further gives a competitive edge to business and obvious benefits to the environment,” he said.
Eskom project development GM Prish Govender said the local energy system would be constrained until 2013, while the power utility is working on solutions to the country’s energy deficit. Government has set the target for a new energy mix to be implemented by 2030.
“In choosing alternative energy sources, Eskom must consider the exact energy requirements, when the capacity is needed, what the appropriate mix of technology will be, linkages and dependencies on other resources, like water, the role of government and funding,” he noted.
While there were many considerations to take into account in finding the appropriate solution, Govender also pointed out that the three key factors were funding, sustainable supply and the environment.
Although coal was a reliable and abundant resource for energy generation, South Africa must incorporate a more efficient and environmental-friendly mix of resources, such as gas, nuclear, wind and solar energy, to its power generation plan.
Govender noted that gas power stations were easy to construct and has proven technology to its benefit, while nuclear generation had low operating costs after the initial intensive capital requirements. Wind energy also has proven technology and holds significant potential in parts of South Africa, as does solar energy-generation.
“Eskom needs clear instructions from national government and support from local government with infrastructure to tackle the changing energy mix and energy efficiency drives,” Govender said.
Talking from his experience obtained during the energy efficiency drive in Wisconsin, Callisto agreed that policy makers must be clear about what they want to accomplish, for energy efficiency programmes to be successful. The programme must be effective and consistent, and customers and trade allies should be educated about efficiency.
“Government and stakeholders should identify solutions that have proven to deliver savings, as well as energy efficiency standards. These solutions and standards should be updated regularly and enacted upon,” he noted.
Earlier this month, Eskom, together with government, business and labour partners, launched a large-scale energy saving campaign, dubbed ‘49M’.
Phillips South Africa marketing and business development head Vasanth Philomin highlighted three trends in efficient lighting that could take pressure off energy demand.
“Energy can be saved with the large-scale transition from analogue lighting to digital lighting, intelligent networked street lighting and new business models in public lighting,” he pointed out.
Callisto noted that lessons in Wisconsin taught that energy efficiency programmes must be streamlined, utilities must be on board and the politics must be sorted out as quickly as possible. When these priorities, as well as funding, were secured, energy efficiency programmes should be successful.