A report commissioned by the Department of Science and Technology and compiled by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) has called for energy efficiency to be given “the priority it deserves” in future versions of the country’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). The report is entitled ‘The State of Research, Development and Innovation of Electrical Energy Efficiency Technologies in South Africa’.
Described as a “consensus study”, it finds that, while energy efficiency research output in South Africa increased noticeably from 2007 to 2014, it seems to have languished since then. Also, energy efficiency activities in the country are small, although they could be “regarded as significant”.
“The availability of appropriate, reliable and affordable energy is central to the sustainability and further development of modern societies,” says ASSAf in its press release. “The field of energy efficiency aims to promote efficiency in the conversion, distribution and usage of energy technologies and products and provides an attractive methodology for managing growth in energy consumption.”
The report makes a number of recommendations. The first is the inclusion of energy efficiency in future IRPs. It also calls for the creation of a countrywide Energy Efficiency and Demand Side Management (EEDSM) roadmap that would support the IRP and a new National Energy Efficiency Strategy. Further, training and research facilities concerned with EEDSM should be strengthened. In addition, the report recommends the setting up of a national energy efficiency monitoring, evaluation and reporting framework.
Smart grid research and training capabilities at South African universities should be strengthened. The energy efficiency elements of the Tribology Roadmap (developed by the Technical Steering Committee on Tribology) should be considered for implementation. (Tribology is the science of friction, wear and lubrication.) The report also recommends that a coherent policy on solid-state lighting be developed, and that the local manufacture of luminaires be supported. (A luminaire is a complete electrical lighting unit.)
The report notes that the research surge regarding energy efficiency was largely associated with the EEDSM hub at the University of Pretoria, which enjoyed focused funding. “[B]ut this needs to be sustained and increased to maintain the momentum to guide and support energy efficiency interventions with linked research and development activities.”
One area of opportunity for South African energy efficiency researchers is provided by international cooperation agreements. The report specifically highlights the Brics Science, Technology and Innovation Framework Programme. (Brics is the quintuple alignment of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.) This is creating research cooperation opportunities regarding microgirds and the associated areas of distributed generation systems, integrated building energy systems, smart grids and solid-state lighting.
“Energy efficiency is an economically and environmentally attractive way to meet growing energy demands,” notes ASSAf.