The Energy Crime

The technology developed for the use of fossil fuel to generate electricity is not very efficient. Most of the fuel we use is converted into heat energy, which goes to waste. Conversion losses when electricity is generated and transported mean that by the time we switch on our incandescent light bulb, only some 2% of the energy from the coal is being used to create light. This is the’ energy crime’.

We therefore need to be as efficient as possible in the use of our non-renewable energy sources.

Energy efficiency

Energy efficiency is using electricity more efficiently or in reduced amounts – in other words, doing the same with less electricity. Technically speaking, energy efficiency is an improvement in practices and products that reduces the amount of energy necessary to provide services such as lighting, cooling, heating, manufacturing, cooking and transport.

A simple way of improving energy efficiency is to change our behaviour when we use electricity. This can be simple acts such as turning off the lights or equipment when they are not in use, or reducing the temperature setting when you use the washing machine (reducing the temperature in the washing machine from 60oC to 30oC will reduce the energy consumption by almost 50%). LED lights use only 10% of the electricity of standard incandescent lights.

Just by substituting present equipment and appliances with the best available technologies on the market, the overall energy consumption in South Africa would probably be more than halved.

Benefits of using energy more efficiently:

  • It reduces our electricity costs
  • It limits and reduces the environmental impacts and hazards to human health of current energy use
  • It increases the resilience and efficiency of our economy
  • It postpones the building of new power plants, and frees up capital for other investments
Turn geyser temperature down to 60o Celsius
Maintaining the temperature at 60oC uses less electricity than maintaining a temperature of 70oC. This works best when geyser and pipes are insulated. Don’t drop it below 60oC for health reasons.

Use less hot water
For example, we can take shorter showers. Run bath water for only 1 minute and afterwards use the water to water the plants. Only fill the kettle with as much water as needed. Wash a full load of dishes, rather than one dish at a time. Use cold water where possible for laundry washing.

Switch off equipment when not in use
Turn appliances off at the wall plug, rather than leaving them on standby as this can still draw about 20% or more of normal electricity use. (Examples are TVs, music systems, computers, phone chargers, etc.) Also turn the geyser off when you go on holiday.

Reduce pool pump operating hours
If you have a pool with a cleaning system pump, reduce its operating hours to the minimum e.g. 6 hours a day. Clean filters regularly, and consider a pool cover and turning off the pump at times in winter.

Reduce excessive heating or cooling
Space heating in winter is a big power ‘guzzler’ and the same for summer cooling for those homes with cooling systems. Use localised equipment rather than central air-conditioning or heating systems, and only heat or cool occupied rooms. The room temperature should not be more than 10 degrees (Celsius) more or less than the outside/ ambient temperature. Avoid under-floor heating. In summer use a fan rather than air-conditioning. But rather than use equipment at all, the best ‘no cost’ saving options are things like wearing warmer clothing and using blankets in winter or opening the windows in summer.

Install an efficient shower head
Shower flow rates should not be more than 10 litres per minute. A good shower head will save both water and electricity without compromising the shower experience, and the saving usually pays back the investment within a few weeks or months.

Insulate the geyser
A geyser ‘blanket’ maximises heat retention. Check heat loss first using a basic ‘hand test’. If the geyser is warm then it’s losing heat and needs better insulation. This is particularly necessary for older geysers. Also insulate the water pipes leading from the geyser for the first 3 metres.

Install efficient lighting
Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) use 75% less power than old incandescent bulbs, and last much longer. Note that CFLs contain small amounts of harmful mercury, so please dispose of them safely. New ‘light-emitting diodes’, or LEDs, are even more efficient than CFLs, and last 130 times longer. They are ideal replacements for halogen down-lighting, and new designs for other applications are coming onto the market. They save the most, and although they may be currently expensive the cost is coming down as the technology develops. Of course, switching off lights in unoccupied rooms is also an obvious way to save.

Install a solar water heater
A solar water heater can save the most electricity of all. It typically saves about two thirds of the electricity required for water heating. With rising electricity tariffs, and the subsidies from Eskom for installing a solar system, the payback period is no more than 5 years.

Install a heat pump as an alternative, if a solar water heater is not possible. New legislation requires that all new buildings in the Overstrand must have heat pumps rather than geysers.

Insulate the ceiling/ roof
A ceiling and good roof insulation can keep the home 5 degrees (Celsius) warmer in winter, and 10 degrees cooler in summer.

Waste not transport/fuel energy

The Overstrand coastline is 250 km long, with settlements spread out over long distances. Daily commutes to work are therefore often long. Private transport is the dominant form of transport, with taxis providing the only public mode of transport. It is estimated that as much as half of the energy used in the Overstrand is for transport. Transport is the biggest CO2 producing sector responsible for climate change.

The combustion of petrol and diesel also significantly contributes to the emissions of nitrogen and sulphur oxides. Nitrous oxide is responsible for the brown haze seen over many cities.

Reducing our fuel consumption will therefore not only save us money and reduce the amount of oil we have to import, but will also benefit the environment.

Cutting down on our use of cars will also reduce the need for very expensive new roads. Plans to cater for the number of cars in Hermanus include building a provincial road through the precious and irreplaceable Fernkloof Nature Reserve.  A zero value has been placed on the land in the calculations of cost of the road. This disregard for the importance of natural ecosystems, biodiversity and visual heritage is not acceptable.