South Africa uses ISO 50001 to avoid a future energy crisis

5 October, 2012

The South African economy is largely based on minerals’ extraction and processing, which is very energy intensive. The country’s unique energy mix and challenges have required a multi-pronged public and private sector response. The South African Bureau of Standards (SABS), ISO member for the country, plays a pivotal role in developing relevant standards to enable the implementation of energy efficiency.


Today, approximately 93 % of power in South Africa is generated from coal-fired power stations, with the balance of power generation made up by nuclear (5 %) and hydro-electric, pumped storage and gas-turbine (2 %) (see Figure 1). However, these figures will change with the implementation of the Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity 2010-2030 (see Figure 2).


Heavy users


The industrial and mining sectors are the biggest energy users, accounting for more than two-thirds of the country’s electricity usage. By replacing old technologies with new, more efficient ones, and by implementing energy management best practice, they provide the potential for the greatest savings.


While South Africa’s historically low electricity price contributes towards a competitive position, it also gives little incentive to save electricity. It is essential that we demonstrate to consumers the cost-benefits of becoming energy efficient.


Efficient vision


South Africa’s energy efficiency strategic vision is to contribute towards affordable energy for all and, at the same time, minimize the negative effects of its usage on human health and the environment. This will be achieved by encouraging sustainable energy development and efficient practices.


Improvements will be accomplished through economic and legislative initiatives, energy efficiency labels, performance standards, energy management activities and audits, and others.


Attention must be given to increasing public awareness of the costs and benefits of energy efficiency. Major savings can only be achieved through changes in people’s behaviour and for that, they must first be informed about the different options.


ISO 50001 industry project


In times of crisis, people turn to standards to establish new baselines. International Standards for energy efficiency and management have gained new-found traction in South Africa’s consciousness.


SABS has played a vital role by publishing and distributing a range of South African National Standards (SANS) on energy efficiency and management, as well as related subjects like wind turbines, alternative fuel vehicles, electrical vehicles, household appliances and bio-diesel. Most of these have been adopted from, or harmonized with, ISO and IEC International Standards. One of the most relevant today is ISO 50001:2011 for energy management systems.


ISO 50001 is the natural centrepiece of standards relating to energy efficiency and management. Compliance with, and certification to, ISO 50001 will thus form a key component of the national plans, such as the National Energy Efficiency Strategy devised by the Department of Energy, to secure our energy future.


South Africa has embarked on pilot initiatives to save energy while entrenching ISO 50001 principles in industry. One example was the Industrial Energy Efficiency Improvement Project, launched in 2010. It was intended to introduce energy management systems practices and an energy system optimization approach for pumping, compressed air, fan, electric motors and steam systems in the agro-processing, chemical and liquid fuels, mechanical engineering, automotive and mining sectors.


The project was implemented jointly by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the National Cleaner Production Centre of South Africa. Key stakeholders included the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Energy, and Business Unity South Africa. SABS played a central role. International input was provided by partners such as the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and the UK Department for International Development.


The project aimed to equip industry with the expertise to develop and implement energy management systems. This included training workshops held around the country, presented by UNIDO specialists, with follow-up monthly webinars. Of the various industry representatives in the workshops, five companies volunteered to participate as host plants in the programme voluntarily, namely :


• Steel manufacturer  – ArcelorMittal Saldanha Works
• Automotive giant – Toyota South Africa Motors (Pty) Ltd
• Construction industry supplier – Saint-Gobain
• Textile manufacturer – Gelvenor Textiles
• Cement manufacturer – Pretoria Portland Cement (PPC), De Hoek


The core deliverable was the implementation of an ISO 50001-aligned energy management system at each plant. Progress towards this goal was monitored, assessed and supported throughout the project cycle. Although some of the host plants had already implemented various energy management systems interventions, the project ensured these were aligned with ISO 50001 principles.


Collectively, the participants achieved a total energy saving of more than 87 million kilowatt hours (kWh) per year. These energy savings are a direct output of No-Low cost initiatives and highlight the proven effectiveness of the Plan-Do-Check-Act approach of ISO 50001. However, as with most other standards, compliance with ISO 50001 is voluntary. So commitment and management buy-in are an essential prerequisite to achieving the desired energy savings.


This study demonstrated the powerful impact of industry’s concerted effort to reduce energy consumption, in addition to additional benefits such as operational costs, and improving environmental performance.


Given the potential for substantial savings, the industrial and commercial sectors will continue to be the primary targets for ISO 50001 implementation. SABS will identify more candidate companies that would like to voluntarily implement the standard.


Forgotten fuel


SABS strives to lead by example. In 2011, the organization opened its new testing laboratory complex in Pretoria. Although there is no universally accepted standard for energy efficiency in laboratory facilities, SABS specialists worked with building designers and architects to study best international practice in similar laboratories around the world. The result was a state-of-the-art facility that attained a „Green Star”  1) rating, without compromising comfort or functionality for laboratory technicians.


Pilot initiatives such as the Industrial Energy Efficiency Improvement Project have laid the foundation for a concerted national effort, driven by compliance with standards, in order to overcome a potential future energy crisis. For its part, SABS is currently training auditors to offer ISO 50001 certification and training services to its customers, and looks forward to being accredited by the end of 2012.


Energy efficiency is called the forgotten fuel because it is often overlooked when seeking solutions to energy shortages. This is especially pertinent in South Africa, where the need to conserve energy had never figured prominently in the public consciousness. But, in challenging times, we are turning to a standard response – in particular, standards like ISO 50001. We view compliance with these standards as the key to securing our energy future without shirking our environmental responsibility to curb emissions.


Original article