An energy efficiency project sponsored by the UK government is seeing companies throughout the Eastern Cape reap huge financial rewards from an otherwise costly exercise aimed at reducing their reliance on the strained electricity grid.
Eastern Cape-based company Rhino Lighting has been signed up as an auditor for the Private Sector Energy Efficiency (PSEE) project, sponsored by the UK Department for International Development.
Rhino Lighting managing director Heather McEwan said several businesses in the region had already enlisted for the audits, including some Spar franchises, the BKB head office, Times Media Eastern Cape – the owners of The Herald – and even Grey High School.
The audit is free for businesses, with the auditing company remunerated out of the UK fund.
“Companies which spend between R750,000 and R45-million per annum on energy are eligible for up to four fully funded days of direct onsite support,” said McEwan. This included energy assessments, identification of energy efficiency opportunities, and follow-up support, she said.
The audits look at a range of energy-saving measures which businesses can implement, and how they can reduce their CO2 emissions.
Old Grey Union executive manager Ian Pringle said Grey High School had enlisted in the PSEE programme to highlight any potential savings on its electricity usage. The school has already reaped huge financial benefits from enlisting Rhino Group in 2011 to switch its antiquated hot water boilers in the hostel to energy efficient heat pumps.
“Thanks to the heat pumps, we have been able to save about R6,000 per month on electricity costs, and that includes payment for the new system,” said Pringle.
“With this PSEE audit we are able to hone in on where we can save further. We are looking at critical points where the school is using a lot of electricity.”
McEwan said one audit revealed that a major local business could save more than R12,000 annually – or reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 10 tonnes – simply by changing the setting on the air conditioning system from 18?C to 22?C.
According to academic and green building consultant Chris Allen, it was important to change the mindset of businesses by showing the cost effectiveness of reducing the reliance on Eskom.
Allen, a former Grey pupil, is behind initiatives aimed at transforming the prestigious Grey campus into one geared towards energy efficiency and renewable energy.
“If we can inform the minds of pupils, we can achieve a much greater transformation of thinking in terms of sustainability and get them to inform their parents to make changes at home and also in their workplace,” said Allen, an NMMU lecturer in Building Science focusing on sustainable design and construction.
“Also, if the parents can see a benefit in their wallets, which should occur as running costs are reduced, then they will also buy in more to the green energy proposition going forward.”
According to McEwan, because of the strain the national electricity grid was under, “any savings can go a long way to easing that stress”.
“Of the clients we have audited, we have identified ways to reduce their electricity demand by an average of 20%,” she said.
“Because Rhino Group has such a multi-disciplinary team, group managing director Brian van Niekerk and I applied to become PSEE consultants. It’s a feather in our cap that we have been appointed as PSEE consultants.”
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