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  • Writer's pictureFrans Dekker

Why energy efficiency in buildings?

This post was put together from several articles published over time on the web.

Globally, the building sector accounts for more electricity use than any other sector, that is 42 per cent. No wonder, considering that we spend more than 90 per cent of our time in buildings.

With increasing urbanization, which is higher in developing countries, the number and size of buildings in urban areas will increase, resulting in an increased demand for electricity and other forms of energy commonly used in buildings.

Africa’s rate of urbanization of 3.5 per cent per year is the highest in the world, resulting in more urban areas with bigger populations, as well as the expansion of existing urban areas. There are currently more than 70 cities in Africa with populations exceeding one million.

In many developing countries there is a very little margin between existing power supply and electricity demand. With increasing electricity demand, new generation needs to be brought in. Although renewable sources of electricity such as hydro, geothermal or wind provide electricity at a much lower cost, their capital outlay is large, they are complex and take much longer to implement. Diesel based generation is usually brought in the short term to meet this demand, which results in increased cost of electricity.

Investments in energy efficiency in a building can be compared with the cost of capital investments necessary on the supply side of the energy system to produce a similar amount of peak capacity or annual energy production. Usually, the capital costs of efficiency are lower than comparable investments in increased supply and there are no additional operating costs of efficiency compared to substantial operating costs for supply-side options.

In addition, energy efficiency investments generally have much shorter lead times than energy supply investments, a particularly important consideration in countries where the demand for energy services is growing rapidly.

One consistent quality in the building sector is that it is subject to a high degree of regulation. Building codes often influence material use and appliance standards that have a significant effect on energy efficiency. Regulatory regimes, to the extent that they exist, may therefore provide a pathway to improve efficiency for both building construction and a variety of building appliances.

In South Africa we used to take energy for granted until January 2008 when the electricity demand outstripped supply and load shedding had to take place. The fuel scarcity also made consumers aware the energy is finite, and it should be used optimally.

Our country's economy is largely based on minerals extraction and processing which is by its nature very energy intensive. Whilst our historically low electricity, coal and liquid fuels prices have contributed towards a competitive position, it has also meant that there has been little incentive to save energy.

In many respects we started with a clean slate with little energy efficiency measures having taken place in 2005 ramping up to a significant number of energy efficiency projects in 2008.

Apart from many years of work by universities and other research institutions that have pointed the way, The White Paper on Energy Policy (1998) recognized that standards and appliance labelling should be the first measures to put in place in implementing energy efficiency.

Such prescriptive-type measures provide the framework on which any energy efficiency strategy is based. At the same time consumers of energy also need to perceive the cost-benefits they can derive from energy efficiency measures, and it is here that demonstrations are essential.

In South Africa, Government started taking the lead by using Public Buildings as an example. Cabinet has approved the implementation of a programme of energy efficient measures in National Government Buildings which are extended to provincial and local government. The Commercial Building Sector, specifically the hospitality industry, is an area for potential improvement given the rapid increase in construction costs.

The Industrial and Mining Sectors are the heaviest users of energy, accounting for more than two-thirds of our national electricity usage. Here lies the potential for the largest savings by replacing old technologies with new, and by employing best energy management practices. The Transport Sector uses three-quarters of South Africa's petroleum products, making it an obvious place to implement measures to improve efficiency.

Promotion of energy efficient vehicles and those with lower emissions, building a public transport infrastructure and a travel demand management system are some of the key features of the approach adopted.

The Residential Sector has great potential for energy savings given the National Housing Programme, since building design is the major factor determining the energy use of a household. An electrical appliance labelling initiative has been launched whereby the energy consumption of all new "white products" are rated for efficiency.

Perhaps the most difficult area for implementation is the changing of people's behaviour as promotion of public awareness about the costs and benefits of energy efficiency has been ongoing since 2005.

Major energy savings can only be achieved through changes in people's behaviour, and that depends on informing them about what options exist. The recent Climate Change and Global Warming studies sensitised the nation about the impact that energy use has on the World's weather systems.

In this era of climate change the Department of Environment and Tourism has taken the lead with a new modelling study called the Long-Term Mitigation Study which looks at the required and urgent measures to reduce CO2 emissions. It was anticipated that the Energy Efficiency Strategy will provide a blueprint for this venture.

South Africa is one of the world’s least energy efficient nations. We use approximately 40% of Africa’s electricity and are the 11th highest emitter of greenhouse gasses in the world.

Our national addiction to energy has led to the situation where our reserve margin is unsustainably low, and the reliability of our electricity supply is under threat. Our energy habits have adverse effects on our economy, our environment, and our health.

The government and Eskom have committed to increase our energy capacity in the early 2000’s, but this showed not to be enough on its own. The government has been reaching out to all South Africans through the National Energy Efficiency campaign to encourage all sectors of society to conquer their “energy addictions”. By growing a culture of activism around energy savings, we still can take control of our energy situation and ensure a better future for all.

The first National Energy Efficiency Strategy was published in March 2005 with the proviso that it would be reviewed every 3 years. This document has been drafted after consultation with stakeholders during October 2008 and is known as the first review of the National Energy Efficiency Strategy of 2008.

Worldwide, nations are facing the challenge of sustainable energy - in other words to alter the way that energy is utilised so that social, environmental, and economic aims of sustainable development are supported.

South Africa is a developing nation with a significant heavy industry, which is by its nature energy intensive. This energy intensive economy largely relies on indigenous coal reserves for its driving force.

At first sight there would appear to be an apparent paradox between using less energy and developing a healthy and prosperous nation based on energy intensive activities. This is not the case. In recent years, especially since 2005 and the release of the first Energy Efficiency Strategy, energy efficiency has significantly gained in stature in South Africa and has become recognised as one of the most cost effective ways of meeting the demands of sustainable development.

The benefits of energy efficiency upon the environment are self-evident. These benefits are of relevance, as South Africa remains one of the highest emitters of the greenhouse gas CO2 per capita in the world.

At a local level the problems of SO2 and smoke emissions have been the focus of concern for many communities living adjacent to heavily industrialised areas. Energy efficiency can address both the macroscopic and microscopic aspects of atmospheric pollution.

The economic benefits of improving energy efficiency have been well documented since the first Oil Crisis in the early 1970's. Many forward-thinking industrial and commercial concerns have already adopted energy efficiency as a key policy towards maximising profits.

Government has signed the Energy Efficiency Accord with over 40 large industrial and commercial consumers and a recent report indicated that 14 of these consumers managed to invest R9.9 billion on energy efficiency improvements and saved a significant 1 441 GWh and 5 190 Terajoules of energy over a 3-year period. This is equal to the entire residential sector consumption for 2 days.

Such positive contributions to both our physical and economic environments will inevitably benefit our social well-being also; the alleviation of fuel poverty, job creation, improvements to human health, better working conditions - the list goes on. All these factors will significantly contribute towards the aims of sustainable social development.

It is for these reasons that South Africa needs to further encourage the implementation of the National Energy Efficiency Strategy.

Compared with developed countries, the South African economy uses a lot of energy for every Rand of value added. In 2006 South Africa had the 42nd biggest GDP in the world but was the world's 21st largest consumer of energy.

There are two reasons for this. The first is the nature of the activities, which dominate the economy. Mining, minerals processing, metal smelting and synfuel production are inherently intensive users of energy. South African gold mines are very deep with low ore concentrations, so it necessarily requires much energy per ounce of gold.

The process used by Sasol to convert coal into liquid fuels is such that only about a third of the energy in the coal ends up in the liquid fuel. Even though South Africa's aluminium smelters are among the most efficient in the world, they still require large amounts of electricity to produce one ton of aluminium.

This will change as South Africa moves into high value manufacturing and service industries, which is already happening. It will also change with changes to processes, for example, when Sasol swaps from coal to natural gas as a feedstock for chemical production at Sasolburg, making production more efficient.

However, it must be noted that the low prices of electricity in the past did give South Africa a comparative advantage in high energy intensive industries such as aluminium smelting. If the aluminium could be beneficiated into products of higher value, South Africa would gain even more.

The second reason for the high energy intensity is that South Africa is wasteful in the use of energy. Low energy costs have not encouraged industry, commerce, transport, and households to adopt energy efficiency measures. There is a lack of awareness of energy efficiency.

However, with higher energy prices and with growing environmental awareness, especially about the emission of greenhouse gases, there is a growing concern in South Africa to promote energy efficiency.

In addition to being the leading emitter of greenhouse gases in Africa, South Africa is also among the top 25 greenhouse gas emitting countries globally. This is the case as the country's energy and electricity supply majorly originates from coal - nearly 90 % of it.

At the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit of 1992, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change stated that its fundamental objective was to achieve stabilisation of the concentrations of Greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.

South Africa ratified the Convention in 1997, which enables South Africa to apply for financial assistance for climate change related activities from the Global Environmental Facility.

The Kyoto Protocol (1997) is an agreement under which industrialised countries will reduce their combined greenhouse gas emissions by at least 5% compared to 1990 levels by the period 2008 to 2012.

South Africa acceded to the Kyoto Protocol in March 2002. Although the Kyoto Protocol does not commit developing countries, like South Africa, to any quantified emission targets in the first commitment period (2008 to 2012), there is potential for low-cost emission reduction options in these countries.

The Clean Development Mechanism provides for trade in certified emission reductions between developing and industrialised countries and thus supports sustainable development with respect to greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries, while helping industrialised countries to comply with their commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.

The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that aims to reduce emissions of the six main greenhouse gases, namely carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulphur hexafluoride, generated by the signatory members of the agreement. It also seeks to promote sustainable growth in developing countries.

Although the Kyoto Protocol was approved on 11 December 1997, it did not go into effect until 16 February 2005, after a long ratification process by the parties that comprise it.

By 1997, 84 countries had signed the agreement, and 46 had ratified it. Of the major emitters, only the European Union and Japan joined, while China, Australia, and the United States decided not to. By the year 2001, there were already more than 180 signers. Russia’s ratification allowed the Kyoto Protocol to go into effect in 2005.

For the Kyoto Protocol to go into effect, at least 55 countries had to accept, approve, and ratify it, and they had to include 55% of the carbon emissions produced by developed countries among themselves.

The first period of the Kyoto Protocol ran from 2008 to 2012, and the commitment that the 180 countries adhering to it took on was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 5% compared to 1990.

The second period began in 2013 with the Doha Amendment extending the Kyoto Protocol, lasting until 31 December 2020. In this second phase, the countries committed to reducing at least 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, still using 1990 as a reference point.

In 2015, the Climate Summit was held in Paris, France, where the Paris Agreement was forged to replace the Kyoto Protocol. It also upholds the commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to reduce the rate of climate change, projecting that they will be limited to zero by 2050. It also proposes containing the level of global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

In the Kyoto Protocol, three implementation mechanisms were established to achieve the objectives of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These complemented each country’s internal policies and decisions to achieve what was set forth. They were:

1.    International emissions trading: this mechanism enables developed countries and countries with transition economies to trade credits to achieve the targets agreed on. This way, countries that stay below the emission limits agreed on can sell their emission credits to other countries. In simpler terms, if a country has emission rights because it emits less than the approved limit, it could sell them to other countries that may need to emit to improve their economy.


2.   Clean development mechanism: this proposes implementing a project for reducing emissions in a developing country by a developed country or one with a transition economy. The latter can obtain saleable credits through this action, and those credits count towards achieving its objectives, while the country that receives the project achieves sustainable development.

3.  Joint implementation: this consists of industrialized countries investing in projects by destination countries, and those projects translate into credits. They are computed against the emission reduction quotas attributed to each country. The investing country gains by acquiring the credits at a lower price, and they are used to meet its Kyoto objectives. Recipient countries, on the other hand, are nations with transition economies or developing countries that benefit from investments in sustainable technologies.

Data for the Doha Amendment period (1990-2018) shows that total emissions in 2018 were 25% lower than in 1990, exceeding expectations.

The drop in emissions in many countries resulted from the end of the Soviet Union. This meant the fall of a highly polluting economic and industrial system rather than a true adoption of environmental and sustainable measures.

The Paris Agreement brings hope based on new policies, technologies, and advances in sustainability, the result of a learning process from previous years and increased concern about climate change.

South Africa is a party to both the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol, having acceded to the Convention in 1997 and ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 2002. As a signatory, South Africa must comply to and participate in meetings and discussions of the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the main global response to climate change. The associated Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement that classifies countries by their level of industrialisation and commits certain countries to Greenhouse Gas emission-reduction targets. The Kyoto Protocol commits developed countries to reduce GHG emissions to 5 per cent below 1990 levels by 2012.

The South African Cabinet approved the hosting of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in May 2008, which will encompass the seventeenth Conference of the Parties (COP17) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the seventh Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP7).

One of the fundamental steps necessary to enable successful implementation of any strategy is the need to understand the barriers confronting it, and how to overcome those.

Several of the more traditional barriers are self-evident and will be described briefly. In addition to these, however, is a barrier relating to the state of the country itself; the argument being that energy efficiency should be a relatively low priority when compared with other pressing national issues such as quality of life and education.

It is important to bear in mind that energy plays an integral part in the solution of these problems, and that without clean and affordable energy such issues will be difficult to resolve.

Energy pricing is a perceived barrier that stems from South Africa's historically low unit price of coal and electricity, although we have experienced a steep and incremental rise in energy prices over the past few years. However, this barrier still holds strong amongst the mind-set of many commercial and industrial organisations that argue that medium and high-cost interventions cannot be justified due to the paybacks involved.

Energy efficiency makes sound economic sense. Although the unit price of energy may still be relatively low, for large industrial consumers, the overall cost per unit to many industries is high because of the energy-intensive nature of their operations. If energy efficiency is approached correctly and with the right emphasis, payback on investment is frequently less than three years. Education and awareness programmes are some of the first steps to take towards overcoming this barrier.

There is a lack of knowledge and understanding of Energy Efficiency. Energy efficiency opportunities are frequently overlooked due to the simple fact that industry and other consumers are unaware that they exist. It is the intention of Government’s Energy Strategy to enhance awareness in such matters and to bring knowledge and understanding into the various sectors.

This can be achieved through awareness campaigns, demonstration programmes, audits and education, and publicising corporate commitment programmes, and public building sector energy efficiency implementation initiatives. Use of the mass media and electronic options such as websites may be fully explored to publicise energy-saving tips, energy management tools and best practice methods.

Where possible joint resources for Demand-Side Management and Energy Efficiency may be capitalised upon for the purposes of promotion since the cost of awareness campaigns and related measures is too high to be sustained continually if executed individually.

Institutional barriers and resistance to change often stem from a fear that outsiders will identify previously overlooked opportunities, thereby uncovering apparent incompetence. There is also a frequently encountered misconception, particularly within industry, that energy efficiency will disrupt production processes and that changes should not be made unless necessary.

 Energy audits are conducted at a plant level to determine the costs and benefits of various energy efficiency options that present themselves. Energy service companies do this and advise their clients on the optimal path to follow.

It is important to understand that these are largely emotional barriers. An approach is required, therefore, that is not only professional and technically competent, but also sensitive to such issues.

Achieving optimum energy performance sometimes involves the installation of costly plant and equipment, and investors may be reluctant to tie-up financial resources in long-term projects. Recent history has seen a degree of uncertainty, both nationally and internationally, due to the fluctuations in the strength of our currency. This is an ongoing problem, and investors as well as local stakeholders and institutions should be encouraged to cost all externalities when considering energy efficiency investment opportunities. Furthermore, appropriate risk-weightings should be attributed to fossil fuel prices when considering plant lifetime running costs. The notion of introducing incentives on energy efficient appliances and equipment will be considered during the lifetime of the Energy Strategy.

Decision making with limited management resources requires the use of imperfect, or incomplete, information and less than fully rational procedures. This is significant as most energy consumers currently have imperfect information regarding the range and performance of energy efficient products. This fact inevitably results in poor decision making when purchasing goods or specifying equipment.

It is an intention of the Energy Strategy to enhance the decision-makers' awareness of issues such as running costs, environmental costs, etc. This will be achieved via the adoption of appropriate standards, awareness, and education, and using instruments such as appliance labelling.

Efficiency standards have been successfully applied overseas and have brought about significant improvements in efficiencies. South Africa has a well-developed system of standards and codes of practice that, in some cases, may be amended to include efficiency aspects without the need to establish completely new standards. The Energy Act and The National Building and Standards Act give the ministers substantial authority to make standards compulsory.

The Energy Strategy makes use of several instruments where inspectors or auditors are expected to carry out certain technical functions, or studies. These functions require a minimum level of technical competence on behalf of the party concerned. Examples include the certification of energy auditors for buildings, industrial plant, and the training of building inspectors to implement energy use regulations.

It is the intention of the Energy Strategy to develop such accreditation procedures and to enable appropriate certification to be awarded to the relevant aspirants.

Information and generic awareness are key elements to achieve success in terms of changing South Africa into a more energy efficient society. Laws and regulations are established, and architectural and engineering professionals are provided with guidance through standards, codes of practice, etc., on how to design houses according to regulations. Plumbers are informed about the need to insulate geysers and how to install solar water heaters as an example.

Awareness-raising starts with pre-schooling education and runs through all learning fields into the adult education system, under the auspices of the National Qualification Framework up to NQF level 8.

South Africa’s Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement will be implemented in a context in which significant development challenges need to be addressed. Low economic growth over the last decade has been accompanied by high levels of unemployment and persistent poverty and inequality.

The recent COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated these challenges – in common with other countries, South Africa’s economy is expected to contract significantly before beginning to recover from 2021 onwards. At the same time, this has created an opportunity to, in the words of South Africa’s President Ramaphosa, “not merely return to where we were before the pandemic struck. We are instead looking at actions that will build a new, inclusive economy that creates employment and fosters sustainable growth”.

South Africa is already experiencing the impacts of climate change and faces multiple challenges in relation to climate change over the next decade. Since 1990, the national average temperature has increased at a rate of more than twice that of global temperature increases, which is already resulting in more frequent droughts and extreme weather.

South Africa’s economy and energy system is one of the most coal-dependent in the world and features a large stock of high-carbon infrastructure, particularly in the energy sector. South Africa is also fortunately blessed with abundant renewable energy resources, and developments in the economics of renewable energy technologies over the last decade are very favourable to low-carbon development in the country, but a well-resourced just transition strategy will be needed to shift to low-carbon technologies, to maximize benefits and minimize adverse impacts on communities, workers, and the economy.

Programmes to achieve this will require climate finance and other forms of support provided to developing countries as specified in Articles 9, 10 and 11 of the Paris Agreement.


Since 2015, South Africa has made significant progress in implementing its response to climate change. The mitigation system continues to be further developed. Our national energy efficiency strategy has been updated for post-2015 and are reviewed every five years. Procurement of renewable energy since 2015 has seen rapidly falling prices for wind and solar photovoltaics.

On legislation, in 2016 GHGs were formally declared priority air pollutants under the existing National Environmental Management Act. This was followed in 2017 by the gazetting of GHG reporting regulations, together with the requirement that large emitters submit annual pollution prevention plans detailing plans to cut GHG emissions, and progress made in doing so.

Company-level carbon budgets were introduced for large emitters on a voluntary basis in a first phase, as indicated in the first Nationally Determined Contribution.

Our Green Transport Strategy was adopted in 2018, including policies to promote bus rapid transit, road to rail and electric vehicles. South Africa convened a Job Summit in 2018, which agreed to establish a Presidential Climate Commission to oversee South Africa’s just transition. The Commission has been approved by Cabinet and is in the process of being established through the Climate Change Bill.

The global average temperature reached 1.2ºC above pre-industrial levels in 2023. South Africa is already experiencing significant impacts of climate change, particularly because of increased temperatures and rainfall variability and is warming at more than twice the global rate of temperature increase. This increase is more pronounced for the western parts and the northeast of the country.

There is evidence that extreme weather events in South Africa are increasing, with heatwave conditions found to be more frequent, dry spell durations lengthening slightly, and rainfall intensity increasing.

Soon, average rainfall accumulation is expected to remain within historical ranges over most of South Africa, except for a decline over the Western Cape and some increases over the far eastern parts of Kwa-Zulu Natal. The country is projected to experience increased severity and frequency of drought in the central interior area.

The water sector is likely to be impacted specifically in the south-western Cape and West Coast making lower priority water users, e.g. irrigation, more vulnerable. While groundwater supplies are generally more robust, warmer temperatures and lower river levels during drought are likely to lead to deteriorating water quality. The frequency of heavy precipitation events is also projected to increase in most of the country with increased chances of flooding risk.

A plausible increase in “extremely hot days” - a hazard indicating an increase in days where health will be at risk from exposure to high temperature - is projected in the north, north-east and north-east interior of the country. For human health, “modifying factors” such as age, nutritional status, access to services and underlying health conditions are known to exacerbate the impacts of climate, and these call for adaptation actions in the sector. The projected changes in temperature extremes put additional strain on the health system, including the increasing burden of disease, and affect aspects such as infrastructure, services, availability of medicines and medical supplies and emergency services.

Vulnerability and risk assessment for the health sector positions subgroups such as the elderly and children as the most vulnerable to temperature extremes. It especially recognizes rural livelihoods and outdoor labour, including women, as the most exposed to extreme temperature hazards leading to adverse effects such as heat stroke.

South African settlements are susceptible to the effects of climate variability, and since 1980 have recorded 86 noticeable weather-related disasters that have affected more than 22 million South Africans and have cost the economy more than R113 billion in economic losses.

It is anticipated that a growing number of South African cities and towns will be exposed to the impacts of weather-induced hazards such as flooding, heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, and storms. This is partly due to the projected increase in the frequency and intensity of weather-related hazards, but also due to the high socioeconomic vulnerability inherent within communities, as well as poor land-use practices, growing informality, and a failure to rapidly deploy resilient infrastructure associated with accommodating a growing urbanising population. It is undeniably the poor and vulnerable communities that will experience the most severe setbacks from the impacts of climate change, eroding their livelihoods, and thus threatening their resilience.

Agriculture, forestry, and fisheries sectors are critical in attracting foreign exchange, job creation and production of raw material for the economy. Across South Africa, the increase in temperatures and changing rainfall patterns will bring about distinct risks for different crops and commodities in different growing areas. The most important impacts soon will be on crops, tree species and livestock produced in marginal growing areas where growing conditions are already close to temperature and water availability thresholds.

More significant changes are expected in average maximum and minimum temperatures, as well as the frequency of extremes such as heatwaves. This will have major implications for crops, tree species, livestock, game, and fisheries as well as the prevalence of pests and diseases.

The current projections show a considerable increase in temperature and more erratic rainfall leading to biodiversity loss within the biodiversity sector, which contributes about 418 000 jobs.

The risk to biodiversity is expected to increase in future, as explained by various projected climatic variables in the form of increased fire frequency and severity, erratic rainfall and increased evaporative demand on account of elevated temperatures. These are compounded by land use and exchange patterns. Limpopo, Western Cape, Mpumalanga, Free State and KwaZulu-Natal provinces experienced the highest biodiversity loss.

The highest risk of biodiversity loss has been evident both currently and in future in these provinces. Fynbos and the Indian coastal belt experienced high biodiversity losses relative to their sizes. About 3 and 4.5 per cent of habitat was lost between 1990 and 2018 in the fynbos and the Indian coastal belt biomes respectively, whilst a higher risk of biodiversity loss is projected in the Savanna and Grasslands. Some of this biodiversity loss is occurring in the vicinity of protected areas.

South Africa’s first Nationally Determined Contribution placed mitigation targets in the context of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, and “takes the form of a peak, plateau and decline GHG emissions trajectory range.

South Africa’s emissions by 2025 and 2030 will be in a range between 398 and 614 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, as defined in national policy”, containing mitigation targets for two years - 2025 and 2030 - corresponding to two periods of implementation, 2021-2025, and 2026-2030.

The increase in the unit price of energy, coupled with more awareness on energy savings potential, may result in significant success arising from both voluntary and mandatory measures and other non-legislative instruments. For this reason, regulatory means are applied to achieve further improvements where necessary.

Efficiency Standards will have limited impact unless made mandatory, and energy audits should be accompanied by an obligation to implement, for example, all no-cost recommendations identified. NERSA will contribute by implementing regulatory measures for guiding reporting and compliance.


Energy audits have internationally been used across all sectors to identify efficiency measures that can be implemented in a cost-effective manner. However, to be effective it has often required both the audits as well as the implementation of measures to be compulsory and to be paid for by the client.

The Strategy promotes energy audits as a means of improving efficiency. Studies are undertaken to design ways in which audits will achieve the greatest impact.

Energy management enables the formalisation of monitoring, evaluating, and targeting energy consumption as well as providing sector-specific benchmarking information. Within industrial and commercial applications, the concept of energy management must also embody other key areas, including Training, Motivation and Awareness, Green Accounts - where companies audit the environmental performance of their operation, as well as its economic performance - Energy Policy and formalised Monitoring and Targeting.

The importance of effective Monitoring and Targeting cannot be over-emphasised, as it provides the yardstick against which savings are targeted and improvements are measured. Without the key information that Monitoring and Targeting provides, attempts to save energy within an organisation can be frustrating, futile, and de-motivating.

The Strategy supports the proliferation of energy management and the establishment of necessary information, including the introduction of Monitoring and Targeting and "Green Accounts':

The mandate to govern and undertake energy efficiency initiatives is derived from the following documents:

•          The Energy Act of 2008

•          The South African Constitution;

•          The White Paper on Energy Policy, 1998;

•          The Municipal Systems Act No. 32 of 2000;

•          The Electricity Act No. 41 of 1987 (as amended);

•          The Standards Act;

•          The Electricity Regulation Act

•          The National Building Regulations and Standards Act

The Residential Sector accounts for 17,9% (2004) of final energy demand. Much of this energy is consumed in the form of biomass in the rural areas, but an increasing amount of electricity is used in middle- and high-income homes and as the national electrification programme reaches more users.

Commercial and Public Buildings account for 6.7% off the final energy demand. The Commercial sector alone contributes 45% towards total national GDP, with most of the energy is used in the form of electricity, the main end-uses being HVAC systems, lighting, and office equipment. The Commercial sector is undergoing significant growth which presents the opportunity to capture energy efficiency at the design stage of new stock.

Savings can be anticipated in thermal energy demand from the incorporation of energy efficiency measures such as thermal insulation in new housing, the subsidisation of solar water heaters, from the implementation of appliance labelling and standards and through massive education and awareness campaigns.

The Core Objectives here are to combat pollution on health grounds, to enforce standards for housing and labelling/efficiency standards for household appliances and to introduce state-of-the-art technologies.

The approach will be awareness raising to communicate the cost-benefits of energy efficiency in the home, to introduce appliance labelling and to demonstrate projects to create an incentive to invest in energy efficiency.

The approach will initially address higher income or higher usage homes and state-subsidised housing incorporating energy efficiency measures as a standard feature. The National Building Regulations were adopted in 2011 to include Energy use regulations, satisfied through the compliance with SANS 10400-XA.


Emphasis is placed on incorporating energy efficiency into building design and energy efficient technologies in existing buildings. Energy management systems for buildings are tested, demonstrated, and promoted as well as the Green Building rating system and modelling tool from the Green Buildings Council of South Africa.

There are several areas of overlap between Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency that warrant a brief discussion.

A widespread installation of solar water heating in industrial and commercial buildings and houses has the potential to defer the need for building new power plants, as the combined heating requirements of these sectors consume the energy produced by three average power stations.

The main constraint on implementing a national solar water heating programme in the Residential Sector related to cost, the current small market and lack of economies of scale is still perceived to be a barrier for implementation. The lack of demand, even where a subsidy is provided, is due to low public awareness of the technology or its economic benefits. The cost of a domestic solar water heater would take more than 5 years to pay back.

However, it is a different story when it comes to large commercial installations. Because of the size, and electricity tariff at peak times, these solar water heaters are competitive with electric geysers and hotels are installing them. The main barrier again remains lack of information about the technology.

Thermally efficient housing - houses designed to save energy, can reduce household space heating requirements.

The household sector requires the following measures:

•          Regulation of low-cost energy efficiency measures in housing;

•          Incorporating passive solar design;

•          Heat insulation in homes;

•          Replacement of electric geysers by solar water heaters.

The implementation of these measures will clearly reduce the need for power, mostly during periods of peak demand and can therefore be viewed as energy efficiency interventions which reduce demand.

As energy champions, our willingness to participate is important for success. Our voices will add credibility and will help to highlight the need for South Africa to become energy efficient and adopt a culture of energy savings. In addition, our involvement will help to highlight the severity of the challenges that confront the country’s energy infrastructure.









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