Saving the world by saving energy

November 12th, 2014, Published in Articles: Energize, Featured: Energize


When opening the 2014 SAEE Convention on 12 November 2014, the president of the Southern African Association of Energy Efficiency (SAEE), spoke of the benefits of energy efficiency to businesses that are trying to remain sustainable while experiencing ever increasing energy costs.

Karel Steyn opening address at the 2014 SAEEC

Karel Steyn

Although all energy solutions are important as part of an energy mix, energy savings, and by default energy efficiency, has been proven to be the primary solution to many of the world’s energy and climate change challenges. This then in turn confirms the critical importance of the SAEE and its members.

Three major business risks have been identified, viz., fiscal crises, climate change, and extreme energy price volatility. This is a clear message to, not only normal citizens, but also those wanting to do business anywhere in the world – we need to do things differently to be sustainably successful.

Today, no-one disputes the impacts of climate change anymore and the effect of what humans are doing to our environment are generally visible, experienced and accepted. Not only electricity, but all energy sources are becoming more expensive with the prices of petrol, diesel, gas, coal, etc., ever increasing. No business will survive by always channeling these ever increasing energy costs through to its customers. Finding alternative solutions should therefore be a normal part of business sustainability and management activities – hence, business efficiency must include energy efficiency.

Research has found that the implementation of energy efficiency has more than double the capacity to reduce carbon related emissions than any other energy solution. Renewable energy is the only sustainable solution and may be the only energy source used in the future. When comparing the levelised cost of electrical resource options, the 2013 Lazard Report found that none of the current renewable options come close to the low cost of implementing energy efficiency. The cost of renewables will continue to decrease but will probably never compete against energy efficiency because it often means simply switching something off.

No energy generation or distribution system is 100% efficient. The actual energy being used at the point of application will always be less than the primary energy needed at the generator. For example, the energy lost from the Eskom coal stacks to where the pumped water is delivered could be as high as 90%, which essentially means that effectively only one unit of energy is being used for every ten required. Similarly, the energy lost in a coal to petrol process could be 93%, petrol from oil 85%, coal generation to an electric vehicle 76%, photovoltaic (PV) to an electric vehicle 29%, etc. It is clear that for every unit of energy saved (with energy efficiency) the units of primary energy equal to the percentage losses, will be saved at the source, e.g. one unit of electrical energy saved at source will save an additional nine units which would have been lost through the delivery process. This makes energy efficiency (or savings) an extremely attractive solution.

Energy efficiency is the basis of sustainable development and energy security – without it, renewable and alternative energy sources are not viable, production processes cannot be optimised, emissions reduction efforts cannot reach its full potential, a healthy energy supply mix for the country cannot be achieved, the economy cannot grow – in short, successful energy efficiency ensures continuous reduction in energy use and guards against existing energy resources depletion.

South Africans should not have an excuse for not working towards a more energy efficient society. The SAEE, with its members and stakeholders are well placed to contribute to this society, and in the process helping us all to save the world, as energy heroes.

The 2014 Energy Award winners will be announced at the SAEE’s annual banquet and awards ceremony. The 2014 SAEE Convention is a showcase of what can be achieved with energy management, energy efficiency and related energy activities. All professionals, energy services companies, stakeholders, energy users, small companies, major organisations, etc., should join the SAEE, its annual convention and exhibition, to save the world by saving energy.

Contact Gareth Burley, SAEE, Tel 018 293-1499,


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