The South African government is raising efficiency levels for high-consumption electrical products, like street lights, in an effort to reduce the energy burden on the national grid, especially as State-owned utility Eskom continues to face constraints in supplying electricity.
With experts recommending the country should brace for a protracted period of intermittent power cuts, or load-shedding, for at least another five years, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) and the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI) are developing minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) for streetlights.
This is important, SANEDI notes, especially considering that inefficient, poor-quality lighting products result in higher energy consumption and costs for households, businesses and national government.
The MEPS is anticipated to increase efficiency and accelerate the adoption of high-quality lighting products and will be used by regulators to ensure that products meet certain criteria related to energy performance.
Implementing MEPS in South Africa will accelerate the market transition to energy-efficient, climate-friendly products and prevent the country from becoming a dumping ground for products that are rejected elsewhere, SANEDI says.
On the contrary, without MEPS in place, municipalities are left with energy intensive, poor-quality street lighting that has a short lifespan and contains harmful pollutants such as mercury – especially as South African municipalities spend an estimated one-third of their electricity consumption on street lighting installations.
In KwaZulu-Natal, the eThekwini municipality is responsible for the installation and maintenance of about 187 000 streetlights, as well as lighting for over 450 public amenities.
The municipality spent more than R1-million in April on replacing faulty streetlights.
Taking this into account, SANEDI says that by implementing MEPS, “the country will transition to less energy-intensive lighting technologies with longer lifespans and lower operating and maintenance costs”.
The new standards are expected to reduce electricity consumption for street lighting by between 40% and 70%.
“South Africa strives to be a regional leader in technology and energy efficiency. By developing MEPS for streetlights, we aim to reduce electricity consumption, improve the quality of streetlights nationally, and ensure we do not become a dumping ground for lighting technologies banned elsewhere,” says DMRE policy officer Maphuti Legodi.
Additionally, owing to major advances in light-emitting diode (LED) technology, LED lights are a cost-effective, safe alternative that can replace conventional streetlight technology, including high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps and fluorescents.
The MEPS will provide an opportunity for local LED lighting companies to expand business operations and employ local staff to supply the national market and export to neighbouring countries.
Johannesburg’s City Power Company, which is responsible for over 300 000 streetlights, allocated R125-million for the installation of new LED streetlights over the next three years.
This initiative will result in the installation of 5 500 new lights, primarily in townships and suburbs. The company also set aside R30-million for retrofit programmes as part of a long-term plan to improve the efficiency of streetlights and transition to clean, long-lasting and environment-friendly LED streetlights.
“Across South Africa, municipalities are becoming familiar with LED streetlights and the value proposition they offer including longer life, lower running costs, better-quality light and so much more,” comments SANEDI standards and labelling programme manager Ashanti Mogosetsi.
“But, as with any product, there can be good- and poor-quality LED streetlights, so we are working with the government to improve street lighting standards to accelerate the transition to LED light bulbs and ensure access to good-quality LED streetlights for cities and towns.”
The decision to develop a streetlight MEPS follows another proposed mandatory specification for general service lamps that will automatically transition the country to LED lighting, phasing out mercury-containing compact fluorescent lamps.
These MEPS also align with regional efforts to accelerate the transition to clean, mercury-free LED lighting products. In May, the South Africa Development Community Cooperation in Standardisation-approved regional lighting regulations.
“In terms of general service lighting regulations, South Africa is paving the way not only for African countries, but also for other developing and developed nations,” says technical expert company Clasp East Africa director James Wakaba.