As much as businesses want to become more energy efficient, the reality is that South Africa is a challenging environment in which to do so.

By Muhammad Ali, MD of World Wide Industrial & Systems Engineers

Most organisations are dependent on Eskom for their power, and while UPS/inverters, generators and solar solutions are available to ensure operations can continue amid load-shedding, they are costly.

It should be remembered that in business the unit cost of a product is calculated in kilowatts per hour, meaning that when you add new energy sources to mitigate the effects of the energy crisis, the cost of the product increases.

Consumers understandably are reluctant to pay that extra cost.

Companies located in office parks are now also being charged for diesel to power generators, another expense that was not there previously. In a nutshell, some businesses struggle to afford the investment in energy-efficient technologies.

At the same time, energy efficiency is becoming non-negotiable, particularly in industries like telecommunications, mining and big data. Companies in these sectors have accordingly planned to ensure they have three tiers of backup energy while also making continuous investments in renewal solutions.

It is no secret that businesses are under enormous pressure to adhere to climate control measures set out by the likes of the World Bank in terms of the 2015 Paris Agreement. This is especially so for listed companies which are now required to provide reports on their environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance to entice investors and increase their share price.

High fuel prices due to global conflicts are also forcing the hand of many organisations to go green and invest in renewables, which have the added value of being clean and reliable.

Energy management systems will be key to this transition process but it is vital that these meet international energy regulations given the global commitment to climate change mitigation.

To this end, ISO 50 001:2018 is a standard developed by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) which can be used to implement an effective Energy Management System. ISO 50001:2018 requires the establishment of policies, a risk-based process approach, and procedures to create governance and continuity. The system will be audited by an accredited independent body to justify conformance to the standard and compliance to the Energy Act.

This certification, as well as others like ISO 14065: Greenhouse Gas & Carbon Footprint Guidelines and ISO 14001:2015: Environmental Management Systems, create assurance in companies’ ESG Reporting.

To understand how a standard works, I will explain it in terms of a household.

The installation of a smart meter will determine the sources of energy you have – solar, UPS, generator and municipal power, for example. You can then take hourly, daily, weekly or monthly readings on which appliances/assets consume the most amount of energy.

You may find that air conditioning accounts for 50% of your total energy use, the geyser 20% and appliances 10%. These readings will enable you to manage your investment more effectively by using solar power for these household devices. Although the initial investment can be pricy, over time you will be able to track your returns and benefits.

Simultaneously, you encourage your family to switch off lights that are not in use and install LED lighting instead of traditional bulbs.

You have now identified your energy source, energy baseline, significant energy usage and energy initiatives.

This is the function of an ISO standard when it comes to auditing a business on its efforts to become more energy efficient.

By having this information vetted by an accredited auditor, trust is established in the business which more often than not results in it gaining more customers. The company is also placed on sure footing in terms of compliance with ESG regulations.

It is vital that top management takes the lead in driving this change if costs are to be saved down the line. ISO Management Systems should be regarded as an investment for this reason.