South Africa’s largest energy efficiency initiative: Industrial Energy Efficiency Improvement in South Africa through Mainstreaming the Introduction of Energy Management Systems and Energy Systems Optimization, has won the highest international accolade for an energy programme – the International Energy Project of the Year – awarded by the global Association of Energy Engineers (AEE).
The industrial energy efficiency (IEE) project, which has been led by South Africa’s National Cleaner Production Centre (NCPC-SA) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) since 2010, received the award in recognition of its efforts to transform energy use patterns in South African industry and to mainstream energy management systems across economic sectors.
Since the project began in 2011, it has successfully trained 39 SANS/ISO 50001 lead auditors, held more than 320 training workshops, and achieved the participation of more than 150 large companies and 227 small and medium-sized enterprises. The project team has assisted industrial companies in saving 6.5 terawatt-hours (TWh) of energy, representing cumulative cost savings of R5.3 billion (EUR 270m.) for these companies.
The AEE’s International Awards recognize achievements in energy around the world. According to the organizers’ official communication, the awards identify those who exemplify the very best in their fields, and recognize the important work that is being done by individuals, organizations, agencies and corporations.
The AEE International Project of the Year award was accepted by national project manager, Alf Hartzenburg of the NCPC-SA, at the AEE International Virtual Awards ceremony. AEE members and executives from around the world responded with enthusiastic accolades when the summary of the IEE project achievements was read by the chairperson of the awards committee.
The IEE project, currently its second phase, funded by the Global Environment Facility, is set to run until December 2021. Other second phase project partners include South Africa’s Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, which funds the NCPC-SA, the Department of Energy and Mineral Resources, and its agency, the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI).
According to Hartzenburg, what sets this project apart is that it partners with and equips industry to tackle practical energy management in companies of all sizes.
He said, “Through expert-level training of industry professionals, demonstration of actual impact and methodologies aligned to international standard ISO 50001, the project partners have ensured that both the skills and the appetite exist to implement energy management.”
Hartzenburg continued, “The benefits are made clear in the energy savings, which result in direct financial savings on utilities and other energy sources, and we don’t leave the companies to go it alone, but support them with skills and financial linkages, where possible.”
Hartzenburg believes that the return to post-lockdown operations offers companies an ideal opportunity to consider changes that will ultimately save them operating costs, thus aiding in the recovery process and long-term sustainability.
“SANS/ISO 50001, the energy management best practice standard, actually saves companies money. We are offering companies technical support to comply with this standard, and even some financial support if they want to apply for certification through the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS).”
Hartzenburg said his team is particularly proud of the huge environmental impact of the project. “Energy savings, particularly in a fossil-fuel based economy such as South Africa, have a direct climate mitigation benefit – which is why the GEF has funded our second phase.”
Based on internationally accepted calculations, the NCPC-SA reports that energy saved by companies through the IEE project has mitigated 6.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) since April 2011 when the first savings were measured.
SANEDI is working with the information gathered through the NCPC-SA interventions, and is using them together with relevant international and national energy trends to inform national energy and policy planning, including the adaptation of the National Energy Efficiency Strategy.
Rana Ghoneim, head of UNIDO’s Energy Systems and Infrastructure Division, said the award was an excellent recognition of the strong ownership, committed leadership and multi-stakeholder partnership that is driving industrial energy efficiency in South Africa. “The programme has always been a great example, inspiring other countries within the UNIDO global programme, where its impacts transcend beyond South Africa.”
The IEE project has a strong focus on gender mainstreaming and promoting the participation of women in energy. To date, 43% of the professionals trained through the project are female.
The project also includes awareness-raising in its activities, as evidence strongly supports the idea that sustained energy savings are brought about through behaviour change. This active communication approach made the project an even stronger candidate for the AEE International Award which encourages projects with “significant success in savings and/or visibility”.