In South Africa, for every kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity produced, 1 kilogram (kg) of carbon dioxide (CO2) is emitted, 1.4 liters of water are used, and 0.37 grams of particulate emissions - which cause harmful air pollution - are released into the atmosphere. Roughly 90% of electricity in South Africa is generated from coal and that figure is expected to drop to just under 60% by 2030. The reliance on coal, combined with steadily rising electricity consumption and aging power plants, threaten South Africa’s ability to meet its climate targets under the Paris Agreement and achieve energy security goals.
In 2008, South Africa experienced widespread rolling blackouts. This period of energy insecurity, coupled with the country’s ongoing dependence on coal for electricity, prompted the Government of South Africa to take drastic measures to implement energy saving initiatives in line with its climate targets. Through a $4.4 million grant from the Global Environment Facility in 2011 administered by the United Nations Development Programme, South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) set out to implement an Energy Efficiency Standards and Labeling (ESSL) program to reduce electricity consumption in the residential sector and increase electricity reliability.
EESL programs have been implemented in more than 80 countries, covering more than 50 different types of energy-using appliances. They are cornerstone energy efficiency programs because they remove inefficient technologies from the market; deter more advanced economies from dumping older, less-efficient technologies on USAID partner countries; and empower consumers to make informed purchasing choices. These programs are essential for transforming markets toward more advanced technologies and fostering innovation in places such as South Africa, where market penetration of more energy efficient technologies remains low due to higher upfront costs.
However, implementing an EESL program requires accessible, reliable data on potential energy savings, which South Africa’s government lacked. Through the Energy Efficiency for Development (EE4D) initiative, USAID and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), have provided EESL technical assistance to USAID partner countries, such as Mexico, Indonesia, and Uganda. Drawing on this experience, EE4D worked with UNDP to share best practices and tools with DMRE and the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI).
By 2030, as a result of implementation of this EESL program, South Africa is projected to save the equivalent amount of energy produced by a 1.2 gigawatt thermal power plant at one-fiftieth the cost. This will reduce CO2 emissions by 6.8 million tons, which is equivalent to the emissions of a country like Zambia.
One of the initial challenges that prevented implementation of the EESL program was the lack of information available about the level of efficiency of appliances sold in the market and the lack of experience in collecting this type of data. To address this, Berkeley Lab developed the International Database of Efficient Appliances (IDEA), which automatically gathers data from online retail sites and compiles it into a repository of information on the efficiency, price, and features of different appliances and devices in markets worldwide.
Another critical element for an EESL program’s success lies in determining the minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) to save significant amounts of energy and help reduce consumers’ electricity bills. EE4D’s Demand Resource Energy Analysis Model can provide an estimate of a program’s potential energy savings, including estimating the benefits to consumers and society. The EE4D team, DMRE, and SANEDI worked together over a five-month period to customize the DREAM tool so that it could be applied to the South African market. Additionally, a hands-on training session in Berkeley, California, enabled the EE4D team to co-create the tool’s development with SANEDI and DMRE, while building capacity for its application to other energy efficiency programs.
This collaboration has led to the issuance of a new minimum energy performance standards, which entered into force in 2016 and included scheduled revisions in 2021 and 2023 for seven appliances. The government also recently issued an ambitious draft regulation for lighting standards, which would bring lighting performance efficiency in line with EU lighting standards and eliminate non-LED lightbulbs after three years of implementation.
By 2030, as a result of implementation of this EESL program, South Africa is projected to save the equivalent amount of energy produced by a 1.2 gigawatt thermal power plant at one-fiftieth the cost. This will reduce CO2 emissions by 6.8 million tons, which is equivalent to the emissions of a country like Zambia. Air quality will also be improved by avoiding 3 million tons of particulate emissions and water consumption will be reduced by 10 billion liters. Improving energy efficiency in South Africa is thus both an interim and long-term climate solution with cost, health, and energy security benefits.
To learn more, visit the EE4D website
Andrew is a AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow with USAID’s Office of Energy and Infrastructure. His current work focuses on energy sector resilience issues in the Caribbean. Prior to joining USAID, Andrew worked with the World Bank to evaluate integrated urban planning tools for carbon mitigation. Andrew holds a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Northwestern University, a M.S./M.E. from the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability, and a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy.
Stephane de la Rue du CanInternational Energy Analysis Department
Stephane de la Rue du Can has more than 20 years of experience conducting innovative scientific research in the field of clean energy modeling and policy development in emerging economies. She joined Berkeley Lab in 2003, after working three years at the International Energy Agency in Paris. She has led or contributed to the authorship of numerous scientific journal articles and Berkeley Lab scientific reports with significant global environmental impacts.
Her work focuses on improving the scientific understanding of end-use energy consumption in developing economies, carbon dioxide emissions accounting methodologies, modeling future growth, assessing energy savings, developing emissions mitigation pathways, conducting cost benefit analysis, and promoting innovative energy efficiency policy. She has worked with policy makers in different parts of the world, and her work has contributed towards the development of new clean energy policies and programs in China, India, South Africa, Egypt, Benin, Ghana, and Uganda. Stephane co-lead the Energy Efficiency for Development (EE4D) program with Michael McNeil, which is a partnership between Berkeley Lab and USAID to provide partner countries technical assistance to implement interventions necessary to scaling up energy efficiency rapidly and effectively.
Stephane is an internationally recognized researcher who has contributed to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group III since 2003. She was a contributing author of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report that won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, and she is a lead author of the Industry Chapter of the Sixth Assessment Report. Stephane is also a mentor to emerging leaders in the U.S. Department of State’s Techwomen Program and an active participant of the International Energy Analysis Department’s visiting scholar program at Berkeley Lab.