Uncertainty seems to be the only certainty when it comes to the security of South Africa’s electricity supply and associated utility costs.
With a 15% tariff hike for direct customers at the beginning of July, no sign of improvement on the load-shedding front (coming off 859 hours of blackouts in 2020), an unclear future for business in general, and the carbon tax on direct emissions being applied to industry and mining, it is not 100% clear where we are headed on the energy front.
“Like the rest of the world, South African business is facing significant uncertainty – in terms of economic recovery and stabilisation, but also in terms of security of electricity supply and managing increasing utility costs,” says engineering group Technological Environmental Project Management (TEPM) CEO Richard Purser.
TEPM is the South African partner of efficiency engineering specialist Crowley Carbon and Clarity (part of The Cool Planet Group) headquartered in Wicklow, Ireland. Through Crowley Carbon and its proprietary data analytics platform Clarity, clients globally have saved millions in energy costs by better managing manufacturing processes and assets.
Using Clarity as a starting point for any efficiency programme, TEPM is able to quickly identify opportunities to implement operational changes to improve overall plant efficiency and performance. “These quick wins lead to further engineered solutions to enhance savings in the short, medium and long term.
“There are a myriad of ways in which large energy consumers can better manage their processes and energy spend while also impacting their carbon footprint and potential carbon tax liability. “These range from set point adjustments on key equipment through to more complex interventions, facilitated through modelling and live analysis of equipment and processes.”
The National Energy Regulator of South Africa was recently given the go ahead to raise the licensing threshold for embedded generation projects from 1 MW to 100 MW.
“This means that private businesses will be able to invest in self-generation capacity up to 100 MW without applying for any licensing – a decisive incentive to further manage increasing energy costs and insecure supply,” says Purser.
While many businesses may have the capital to unlock these opportunities, others may remain on the fence as to what is the best long-term strategy – especially those that operate 24-hour facilities or are heavily process intensive.
“TEPM is well positioned to work with those facilities and map out the best way forward, ensuring any investment is best suited to the current and future strategy of a business.”
The savings can be impressive: A recent project at a large-scale refrigeration plant saw 17% saving of energy consumption without installing any major equipment.
“The relationship in South Africa between TEPM and Crowley Carbon is still relatively new, but already we have embarked on several exciting local projects that are destined to save millions in energy costs and lead to an impressive reduction in carbon emissions,” concludes Purser.