Cape Town Does More with Less Energy!

Cape Town proves that energy efficiency programs pay off as it strives to achieve sustaibability targets.
Published: Wed 18 Jun 2014

The City of Cape Town, recent host to the African Utility Week, strives to be at the forefront of sustainable development in South African local government. In fact, Cape Town is the first local authority in South Africa to establish a dedicated Resource Conservation Branch of Energy and Climate Change of which Sarah Ward is the manager.

City takes responsibility

The city has established The Energy and Climate Action Plan which has a number of goals, of which one is to achieve 10% renewable and cleaner energy supply by 2020. In addition, the city aims to meet growth in electricity demand with cleaner renewable power.

The plan’s other objectives include:

  • Building a more compact, resource-efficient city

  • Developing a more sustainable transport system

  • Raising awareness and promoting behavior change through communication and education

  • Undertaking research and development to improve on the plan

  • Establishing data management systems

  • Monitoring and evaluating the plan annually

The council or local authority is also taking responsibility for its energy usage and are leading by example. They are currently boasting energy savings of R18 million per year. The council aimed for a 10% reduction in energy consumption by 2012 but this target was exceeded and they reached 12.8% instead. Ward points out that most of the traffic lights have been retrofitted, low wattage street lights are being used instead, and council buildings are installing photovoltaic rooftop panels.

Programs have been put into place to help the community save electricity. Customers are given tips on The campaign has been running since 2010/2011 and all customers can participate in some way. Some tips don’t cost a penny, while others involve a low cost such as wrapping pipes. Bigger investments, such as solar water heating is also suggested to those who are interested. Says Ward, “Investment savers such as solar water heating, provide a great deal of savings and have long-term benefits. While it saves the customer money in the long-term, these investments also provide jobs in the community.”

Customer tips include:

  • Fitting energy efficient light bulbs

  • Use the shower instead of the bath

  • Lower the geyser temperature

  • Install solar water heaters (a solar water heater accreditation program has been established).

Solar Water Heating is about sustainability

Solar Water Heating has major potential for energy reduction and long-term sustainability. The council carried out research before they launched the program and discovered that 76.9% have an informed opinion about solar water heating.

Unfortunately there was a huge lack of trust in installers- only 31% agreed that installers are competent. However, consumers chose the council as the most trusted installer at 71.7%. Says Ward, “While this was exciting for council, we were put under pressure to get it right! Consumers can now choose an accredited installer from our website.”

While the cost of this heating system proves to be a major barrier (85.9% say they can’t afford it), the accredited suppliers will help with a payment scheme to suit various pockets.

Ward explains that the solar water heater program has many financial benefits for households and the city’s economy, as well as the environment.

For each 100,000 heating systems installed, the following savings are made:

•The city of Cape Town gets to keep R300 million per annum that would have been paid to the national utility, Eskom

•A total of R800 million per annum in savings from households once systems are paid off

•About R1 billion will be invested in local solar water heater business which creates local employment

•Electricity savings of 280 000 MWh per annum will be made (This is 3% of the city’s total current consumption)

•280 000 tons of carbon per annum

The commercial sector is on-board

An Energy Efficiency Forum, a public-private partnership, has been established for the commercial sector which helps businesses in the city to become more energy efficient. The Forum also awards those who have been successful in their programs.

The Forum, launched in 2009, currently has over 1500 registered members. The members meet three times a year to receive technical support and share innovative ideas.

“It makes complete business sense to be more energy efficient and the competition gives companies a lot of positive exposure. Companies learn a great deal from each other from each other,” explains Ward of the Forum.

Forum member and award winner, V&A Waterfront made an investment of R22 million and has managed to save 11,3 GWh/a or 15,5%. The return on investment was under five years. Their success was due to:

  • A robust energy management system

  • Lighting controls

  • Variable speed drives on pumps and motors

  • Credible metering and billing systems

  • Targets in staff performance contracts

  • The creation of their own Sustainability Committee

Award winner and member, Woolworths, cut their power consumption by more than 31%. Their success was due to:

  • Building a management computerised system with a centralised control

  • Every business unit has to adhere to energy efficiency goals

  • The creation of staff awareness programs

To become an Energy Efficiency Forum member, visit the website at

Further reading

Engerati-City of Cape Town-The drive to be more energy efficient