We’re halfway through 2023 and South Africa has experienced nearly as many hours of load shedding as it did in the full year of 2022, writes Jo-Anne Arends , product manager at Nashua. Loadshedding up to Level 6 is a daily occurrence, putting businesses and households in the dark for up to 12 hours a day – and analysts warn that the situation could deteriorate in winter. Some are warning people and businesses to brace for Stage 8 or even worse.
Not only is grid power becoming increasingly strained, but it’s also becoming more expensive. The regulator has approved an increase of over 30% in the Eskom electricity tariff over the next two years. This picture is unlikely to change in the short term, meaning that businesses will need to become more energy efficient and more independent from the grid.
It’s a daunting challenge, but it is also an opportunity for forward-thinking businesses to improve sustainability and drive business efficiencies. With technologies such as solar panels, lithium-ion phosphate batteries and inverters becoming more affordable, businesses can mitigate the impact of load shedding and higher power prices.
More sustainable technology solutions meanwhile offer ways to further reduce the electricity bill and help cut carbon emissions. Green IT makes more efficient use of resources and reduces waste, which is good for the planet. Here are some quick wins for companies that want to achieve higher levels of energy efficiency and independence:
Look at renewable energy solutions
Load shedding is nothing new to South African businesses – we’ve faced it in various levels of frequency and severity for more than 15 years. But the solutions to manage it have advanced a great deal in this time. A diesel generator is no longer the only option for your business.
Hybrid solar solutions have become more accessible, with innovative financing models. These solutions combine the power supply of the grid and the electricity generated by solar panels with battery or generator backup. You can start small and then build on, gradually adding more panels and batteries.
During the day, you can use power generated by the solar panels to run your business. You can store surplus power in batteries to use at night-time or during power outages. This enables you to be productive during load shedding and cut electricity costs. You’re also using your clean solar power some of the time rather than the grid.
Consider cloud computing rather than on-prem solutions
Shifting towards cloud computing rather than running your own server room or data centre can help your business to reduce costs and emissions. Public cloud providers are more efficient because they use the latest green tech in their data centres and offer significant economies of scale.
Microsoft, for example, claims that using Azure can be 93% more energy efficient than running your own data centre. Using cloud resources also frees your business of the need to invest in expensive UPS and generator infrastructure to keep your IT running. Plus, the cloud enables remote and hybrid working models.
Double down on hybrid and remote work
Many businesses have called employees back to the office after the COVID-19 crisis. But staying flexible may pay off for your business during the energy crisis. Allowing people to work remotely some of the time means that you can save on office lighting, air conditioning and power; it also reduces emissions by keeping cars off the road. Plus, you can enable people to work where they have access to power. That might be at home, at the office or at a co-working space.
Invest in energy-efficient office equipment
Computers and office equipment can consume a lot of power each month. Replacing older equipment with newer, more efficient alternatives can help reduce your bill. Look out for printers, copiers, monitors and computers with high ENERGY STAR ratings. ENERGY STAR is an internationally recognised certification for energy efficient tech equipment.
Green tech: the business benefits
In addition to reducing emissions and direct power costs, investing in energy efficient IT has a range of other benefits. Greener IT products often allow for longer maintenance cycles and less frequent replacement, helping you reduce opex and capex. A commitment to sustainability is also good for a business’s reputation. While the current load shedding situation is a crisis, it can thus also be an opportunity to create a smarter and better business.