As Eskom carries out critical maintenance on its failing units, South African landlords and facilities managers have to implement measures of their own to ensure energy security for their properties, writes Yannick Mvudi, Energy & Sustainability Lead for CBRE Excellerate.

There certainly appears to be no foreseeable end to the current load shedding, and facilities managers now have to factor in rolling blackouts as part of the daily management equation. In addition to security of supply, facilities managers also face the challenge of keeping the cost of energy at the lowest level during load shedding. Innovative solutions are therefore required to achieve reliable power supply at the lowest cost during grid power outages.

Here are four practical methods that facilities managers can use to mitigate the impact of load shedding on business continuity and utilities costs:

Invest in a storage system

Storage is an effective method of addressing shortage of supply of any resource, and energy is no exception to that. Various energy technologies are today available and end users have to select the most relevant based on their needs. Mobile power banks can be used for small electronic devices such as cell phones and laptops while large UPS’ are recommended for large IT loads such as server rooms or data centres.

Battery banks with inverters can also be used to store energy from the grid when it is available and then used during power outages. Although stationery batteries often supply cleaner and more affordable power than a diesel generator, it is not widely used due to the high initial capital expenditure (Capex) required for its implementation.

Notably, including load shifting from peak to off peak hours in the standard operation of battery banks when there is no load shedding is one way of increasing the affordability of this solution. Further cost and carbon reduction can be achieved by using batteries to store energy from an existing grid-tied solar system and used when the price is more favourable.

Invest in alternative energy sources

The use of alternative sources of energy is the other obvious option to tackle load shedding. While going completely off-grid may be an expensive exercise, the use of alternative energy sources as backup power or the main supply source for some specific load is a viable option.

A diesel generator is probably the most common of backup power used – it requires a relatively low capex but is very expensive to operate due to the high cost of fuel. For heating applications such as cooking or hot water and steam supply, fuel switching can be an effective way to mitigate the impact of load shedding.

By using fuel fired boilers and/or gas-powered equipment, facility managers can ensure security of supply for their heating applications. Although off grid solar is an expensive solution for a large facility, the use of solar powered light is an effective solution for outdoor lighting.

Supply critical load only

Commercial facilities often include vital systems that need to remain active to ensure business continuity. These systems are referred to as critical loads and often includes security and safety systems, telecommunication infrastructure and some lighting equipment.  The restriction of the electricity supply to critical load during power outages can enable facilities managers to reduce the energy usage during load shedding and the capacity requirement of the backup source. This results in lower capital and operating costs.

Implement energy efficiency measures

The capacity requirements of storage and on-site generation systems increase with the demand of the facility. By implementing energy efficiency measures such as equipment retrofit and smart load control, facilities managers can reduce the energy demand of their site and the costs associated with storage and on-site generation.

With load shedding predicted to continue in the coming months, landlords and facilities managers need a strong game plan to remain competitive. Investing in storage solutions and alternative power sources while effectively managing the demand will enable them to provide business continuity at the lowest cost to their clients.

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