It's not just mining and heavy industry that can help South Africa overcome the current electricity crisis – companies across the board can achieve huge savings simply by changing their power consumption habits slightly or implementing specific technical solutions.
This is the message that came out of yesterday's Crisis Coping Forum organised by the South African Institute of Electrical Engineers and addressed by Eskom, City Power and Wits University.
Eskom's Dr Steve Lennon told IT-Online that companies can make a tremendous difference simply by educating their staff about turning off lights and equipment when not in use and helping them to reduce demand for electricity in other places.
"Also, how many companies supply hot water in the washrooms?" he asks. "This is a waste – by the time hot water comes through the tap, people have finished washing their hands. Disconnecting these geysers will result in an immediate saving.
"Another thing companies can do is reduce their air conditioning costs," he says.
Wits University's Prof Will Cronje also had some practical advice that companies could follow to reduce their consumption – and the cost – of electricity.
He recommends that organisations conduct a thorough audit of where electricity is being consumed – for instance, by lighting, water heating, air conditioning, space heating, IT equipment or cooking – in order to get a picture of where the problem areas might be.
They should also measure how efficiently each area is using the available power – the power factor.
Companies will then be in position to maximise their electricity usage, through a combination of behaviour changes and technical solutions.
A strong message from Eskom is that this year's 14% rate increase for electricity is just the first of many price hikes.