How a massive low-energy retrofit is helping South Africa keep its lights on

 

The motivation for energy-saving lighting projects is usually to reduce the cost or carbon emissions that lighting is responsible for.

But in a recent major project in South Africa, it was about keeping the lights on at all.

South Africa is one of the biggest coal producers in the world – but it’s short of electricity. The country’s supply hasn’t kept up with demand, and in 2008 it had to resort to 'load sharing' – in other words, rolling blackouts.

New power stations are being built to alleviate the problem, but that alone isn’t enough. Electricity provider Eskom has also had to help its customers make big reductions in consumption.

Property developer Growthpoint was one of the organisations to get funding from Eskom to cut its energy use, and lighting was high on the list of areas to deal with.

Growthpoint approached lighting manufacturer Aurora, which conducted energy-saving audits at a number of sites including shopping centres, offices and industrial buildings, and put together a plan to suit Growthpoint and its tenants.

In a huge 40 million rand ($3.6 million) project, Aurora provided more than 100,000 energy-efficient lamps and light fittings for 157 Growthpoint properties, reducing the company’s electrical load by 5.5 megawatts and slashing consumption by 23 million units.

The project has been shortlisted for this year’s Lux Awards, in the new International Project of the Year category.

Sixty thousand T8 tubes and 17,000 ceiling panels were converted to T5, 16,000 halogen downlights were replaced with LEDs, and 8,500 400W mercury vapour high bays were converted to metal halide.

Essop Basha, head of utilities and services at Eskom, described lighting as the ‘low-hanging fruit’ of energy savings, and a ‘more precise science’ than other efficiency measures. ‘There are a certain number of variables, and if you’ve got those variables right, you can actually calculate your ROI,’ he said.

The 5.5 megawatts saved by Growthpoint helped Eskom reduce demand across the country by a total of 591 megawatts in one year.

NB Since this project took place Essop Basha has left Growthpoint... and joined Aurora!

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