Evaluations into potential energy savings at Anglogold’s Elandskraal gold-mine near Carletonville, South African Breweries’ (SAB) Prospecton brewery in Durban and Sappi’s Mandini paper mill showed a total potential return of about R9-million a year on investments totalling just more than R5-million.
About 60% of these savings could be made without significant investment in new capital.
Moreover, none of the energy-saving projects had an investment payback period of more than a year; the longest payback period being ten months in the case of SAB.
“We learnt that it is not always large problems but rather easily-overlooked things that cause energy waste,” explains SAB Prospecton project engineer Doug Geddes.
“For example, by replacing a few small faulty valves, the Durban brewery will be saving as much as R50 000 a month on refrigeration electricity costs,” he reports.
The three companies, which all have a record of active energy management, volunteered for the energy audits as part of the Energy Efficiency Earnings (3E) strategy, a programme developed specifically for South African corporations.
The project is being undertaken by Eskom subsidiary Technical Services International (TSI), the Energy Research Institute at the University of Cape Town, Dutch organisation Novem and UK energy-efficiency agency Etsu.
The European Commission is the main sponsor of the programme, with additional funding received from the Dutch government, the South African Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) and TSI.
“This programme has proved that even five-star operations have room for improving their energy efficiency,” maintains Geddes.
It has been reported that energy-saving programmes are in place in all industrialised countries, mainly as a result of legislation, the provision of information and encouragement of energy efficiency practice.
However, as a result of the availability of relatively cheap energy in South Africa, energy efficiency has not been a priority for most local companies until now.
Continued pressure on the price of local energy, the high price of oil, the quest for global competitiveness and environmental considerations have resulted in energy management receiving increased attention.
In a speech read by chief director for nuclear and renewable energy Dr Themba Mdlalose at a 3E workshop in Johannesburg in her absence, DME Minister Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka welcomed the programme, adding that South Africa could save between 15% and 20% in energy through such efficiency programmes.
This would increase the country’s gross domestic product by at least 3%.
“In South Africa, the energy sector is being redirected to promote social and economic responsibility within the realm of environment sustainability,” she said.
“We need to improve the quality of life of the population on one hand, while on the other we need to develop an efficient and internationally competitive economy.
“A key challenge, a convergence needs to be sought, and the implementation of sustainable energy efficiency programmes is certainly one way of achieving that balance,” she maintained.
The 3E strategy uses standard energy management practice that is actively promoted in Europe, Japan and the US.