Many South Africans may believe the power outages of 2008 – the year we all became aware of the fact that electricity is a scare national resource that should be used prudently – is a thing of the past. Eskom, in its drive to maintain open and regular communication with South African homeowners and the business sector, has been saying for the past three years that the system is still very much constrained, and that 2012 would be a particularly difficult year.

It is an undisputed fact that demand pressure on the national grid – triggered by ten years of robust economic growth – is still with us and remains significant. This will continue until new energy generation capacity – primarily the Medupi and Kusile projects – are completed and contributing to the national grid.

In the meantime, the projected supply deficit will continue, making it essential for Eskom and all electricity consumers – both the business sector and the homeowner – to examine all opportunities for reducing their energy demands and helping optimise the use of Eskom’s existing supply capacity.

Eskom is leading a national drive to promote energy efficiency through large-scale roll-outs of energy efficiency rebate programmes tailor-made for all customers.

Focusing on the entire spectrum of electricity users – from private homes, guest houses, residential estates, factories and manufacturing plants to retail chains, car dealerships, financial institutions, commercial properties, office parks and farms – the programmes focus on identifying and promoting more efficient ways to use electricity, and switching over to energy efficient technologies.

Eskom examines all sides of the solution to help the various sectors achieve their savings. Whether the demand is for energy efficient lighting systems, hot water systems, building management systems or process optimisation systems, Eskom has developed tailor-made answers.


Demand management projects began in 2003 and have resulted in significant benefits. There have been savings of 11 474 thousand tons of coal, which equates to an environmental benefit of CO2 emissions being reduced by almost 21 036 thousand tons. Electricity savings are nearly 21 249.48 GWh whilst 29 749.27 mega litres less water has been used.

In the residential sector most savings have been achieved through the implementation of mass roll-out campaigns to replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps. By the end of the 2010/2011 financial year these campaigns achieved installing more than 47 million CFLs in homes nationwide, reducing demand by 1,958 MW. To put this in perspective, a municipality such as Bloemfontein uses 323 MW of power.

Solar water heating is a well-established technology and the solar rebate programme for the residential sector has been running since 2008; an impressive total of 183,000 rebate claim requests have been received to date.

Successful industrial and mining projects have brought about 527 MW or 1,400 GWh in savings since 2003.
Eskom’s energy efficiency projects in its own buildings alone resulted in a reduction in energy consumption of 25, 5 GWh in 2011; this project is also spread across improvements in thermal efficiency at power plants and reduction of transmission and distribution line losses.

In the commercial sector retailers, banks, motor companies, hospitality facilities, clinics, hospitals, commercial property owners, hotels and the hospitality industry at large have been exposed to “green” workshops and conferences” and have, as a result, partnered with Eskom to ensure sustainable energy savings.

“Creating energy efficiency ambassadors” road shows have seen information being shared on business premises; subsequent energy savings in offices and homes were the immediate result. To date, more than 50 corporations have formally partnered with Eskom on the national energy efficiency drive.

Assistance with ‘in-house’ programmes in businesses is encouraged by Eskom providing appropriate energy efficiency rebate programmes material.

An essential addition to the energy efficiency marketing and communications campaign has been the Power Alert system, an interactive media control system aimed at the residential sector and empowering the public to assist in reducing electricity usage on weekdays between the critical time of 17:00 to 21:00; a familiar presence on SABC and eTV, the Power Alert is also now on display on DStv.

New initiatives

The requirement to sustain savings drives has seen Eskom design and implement five funding models and a market participation scheme to address various market sectors and target audiences, and encourage the adoption of energy efficiency technologies, particularly in the commercial sector.

These models include a rebate model structured around an incentive scheme; a Standard Product for customers with a potential load saving of between 1kW to 100kW; a Standard Offer for customers with a potential load saving of 50kW to 5MW; an ESCo model targeted at specialists in energy efficiency of 100kW or more; and Performance Contracting, which entails purchasing bulk verified energy savings across multiple sites and technologies by contracting with a single project developer.

The Demand Market Participation scheme, where companies are asked to reduce demand at short notice and, in return, receive pre-determined and agreed funding for this reduction, will soon be announcing the addition of the energy market aggregator.

Into the future

With pressure on the power system continuing, the need to ensure that all South Africans contribute to saving electricity will see Eskom continuing to identify and develop energy saving mechanisms.
Exactly how successful they will be revolves around the commitment of South Africans to support this vital cause and join a national drive towards a more energy efficient South Africa.