Sustainability consultancy Environmental Resources Management (ERM) is involved in an ongoing energy efficiency project with one of South Africa’s four big commercial banks, ERM partners Simon Clarke and Massimo Bettanin tell Engineering News.
Bettanin explains that, in September last year, ERM began assisting the financial institution, in conjunction with the Private Sector Energy Efficiency programme, in developing an energy strategy geared towards optimising the bank’s energy consumption. ERM assisted this client in drafting five-year energy-improvement targets and an associated energy strategy for the 2015 to 2020 period.
ERM conducted an energy consumption baseline to assist in defining the energy targets, which the financial institution will now use to gauge their yearly performance.
The company began its contract by holding a workshop in October last year to familiarise the bank’s management staff with the energy efficiency project, after which the bank’s portfolio, comprising more than 1 000 buildings, were assessed.
Bettanin highlights the complexity of understanding the energy performance of such a big cluster of properties. He explains that this required ERM to identify the bank’s energy profile, which involved establishing who the most important energy consumers were.
To ensure that the bank’s energy consumption was neither under- nor overestimated, the monitoring and reporting system needed to be properly calibrated and reliable data needed to be collected. The financial institution has made good progress in this regard as it continues to roll out an online, real-time measuring and monitoring system.
Meanwhile, Clarke explains that sometimes companies set unrealistic or uninformed targets, owing to their lack of systematic organisation and experience in energy management, compounded by a lack of data.
He reiterates the growing importance of data collection in the energy management field, as data provides a measurable understanding of energy consumption, adding that ERM often recommends using a dedicated data management system for monitoring and reporting energy use for large companies.
Bettanin points out that some of the bank’s buildings either lacked data, or the data was not being used or interpreted correctly.
It seems as if the importance of energy data collection will be reflected in government policy, Clarke states, citing draft regulations released by the Department of Energy for public comment on March 27, which will require large companies above an energy consumption threshold of 400 TJ in certain sectors to submit a five-year energy-management plan.
Bettanin adds that, despite the bank’s good energy monitoring system, the implementation of the energy efficiency project helped the bank to focus on reducing consumption in the areas of major consumption identified by the baseline assessment.
He further highlights the importance of developing a management strategy in a way that is consistent and structured, adding that the strategy for the bank was formed in accordance with the ISO 50001 energy management standard.
In the process, ERM’s approach was to consider resource efficiency, mainly from the perspective of the “demand side”, where consideration was given to why certain resources – such as temperature, or pressure – are required in a particular form at a particular location and how this demand can be reduced. This approach tends to emphasise existing operating equipment better and focuses on low-hanging opportunities that require little to no capital investment for the enhancement of energy efficiency.
Bettanin says one very common example of excess energy use that ERM came across in the industrial field was where unnecessary volumes of compressed air are being used.
While these low-hanging opportunities had a relatively low energy saving, the cost related to energy savings was low or zero, which made the return on investment significant, he adds.
Clarke believes that many of these low-hanging opportunities exist in South Africa, where energy costs have been historically low and, therefore, energy savings have been neglected.
Bettanin explains that the cumulative savings from these opportunities, which usually amount to between 5% and 10% of energy savings, would make more funds available for the financial institution to invest in more extensive energy-saving capital in the demand and the supply side of the company, making the whole programme potentially self-funding.