Energy Efficiency: Public Hearings Day 2

PMG 6 September 2012.

Date of Meeting:

6 Sep 2012

Chairperson:

Mr S Njikelana (ANC)

Summary:

The Energy Intensive User Group told Members that there was not an effective strategy in place to address the issue of energy efficiency. By defining energy consumption in different facets, a strategy to reduce energy usage might be produced.

Eskom had reacted to the power shortages experienced in the past. It had embarked on programmes to enhance public awareness of the current energy supply situation. Many programmes had been introduced, such as the solar water-heating project. Eskom had set itself energy saving targets, and the savings achieved were well in excess of the targets.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research spoke about the need to reduce the energy required to run buildings. While base materials were used, it took a lot of energy to shape these into building materials. The Council was working on some projects to make buildings independent from electricity and water supplies and sewerage systems. Attention was needed to the enormous transmission losses. Transport was also a major consumer of energy. A development was described where business and commercial buildings shared power sources.

Members felt that the targets set by Eskom were too low. Attention had to be paid to power plant losses. Incentives should be put in place to encourage high and medium income households to save energy. One possible solution was the time-of-day meter, which would help to ease the strain on the electricity grid during peak hours. There was a government strategy document in place, but it was overdue for review. Refrigeration and heating through resistance systems used the most power. The Energy Intensive User Group offered to assist government by gathering data. Municipal charges were diminishing the possible savings from the installation of solar water heating systems.

Members were briefed on the work of the Centre for New Energy Systems, based at the University of Pretoria. Courses in various energy-related activities were on offer. The Centre had won many awards for its work. Prof Leuschner, an expert in lighting and an academic at the Centre, said that some energy saving suggestions were of little value. Municipalities stood to lose revenue due to energy saving, and the cost of producing electricity could rise as a result of reduced demand. Real savings could be achieved by introducing photovoltaic technology, new generation light-emitting diode lamps and electric vehicles.

Members took issue with Prof Leuschner. Municipalities would be prepared to introduce off-peak tariffs with the correct metering. The assertions that he made were not backed by facts, and his submission was not useful to the Committee. It was important to change behaviour patters in order to save energy.

The National Energy Regulator of South Africa told Members that Eskom was tasked with energy efficiency. A dedicated fund had been set up and targets were in place. The control of the supply and demand of energy should remain with the system operator.

The National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa felt that business was taking the initiative in energy efficiency. Government was not taking the lead. Some companies had programmes in place but the initiative was being taken by management with little trade union involvement. Training in energy management was needed at all levels. The union did have its plans in place. Opportunities to develop local industry were being stymied. There was a high level of import of solar water heaters and components.

General Electric South Africa produced a wide range of products which promoted energy efficiency, ranging from high quality light-emitting diode lamp bulbs to railway locomotives running on a hybrid of diesel and battery power. Processes could be put in place such as the use of excessive heat produced during manufacturing processes to generate power. Incentives such as tax breaks should be put in place, and the Auditor-General should pronounce on wasteful uses of energy.

Members were reminded by the Southern African Association of Energy Engineers that the country played a leading role in energy engineering. Focussed research was needed, and their chairperson tabled a number of proposals to promote energy efficiency. Education was a key requirement, and the example of Germany was cited where energy efficiency was taught at school. Germany had been able to reduce its energy consumption significantly.

Members saw the need for new technologies, particularly in the transport industry. The introduction of daylight saving time should be investigated. Unions should be involved. There was a question of the funding of time-of-use meters. Members were told that in Johannesburg this technology was being used, but another municipality had refused to use this, as it would impact on its revenue collection. It was important for the correct data to be obtained. Statistics South Africa had a role.

Members pointed out the majority of solar water heaters were of the low-pressure type, and these did not afford significant energy savings. It was important for energy efficient behaviour to permeate through all levels of industry…

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