Energy is indispensable to the modern economy. Without it, all plans for growth and prospects for jobs come to nothing. An unreliable nature of electricity supply is one cause for lacklustre growth in any economy, and has seen nationwide alarm in 2019.
There are many applications in the agricultural value chain which require a constant, uninterrupted flow of electricity (under the next heading several of these are set out). A disruption of power at an operation like an abattoir is not only inconvenient but can lead to much suffering.
Not only the availability of power but the pricing is important. Year-on-year double digit price increases over the past years have squeezed margins and the threatened the competitiveness of the agricultural sector. Agriculture has called on government and ESKOM to change its mindset about energy.
In a recent development, the discovery of a gas condensate off the southern Cape coast, if managed properly, could be very good news for the country (Naido, 2019).
Two positives from the energy challenge are the resulting integration with neighbouring states that arise out of energy corridors, and the attention that is being given to renewables. Increasing the supply from private co-generation would be an effective way to alleviate the constraints. Its Independent Power Producer Programme attracted billions of rand investment, but the country’s progress with this option has been frustrating.
As a farmer you are a businessman, someone who is just as concerned about keeping operational costs under control as you are about your fields, crops and cattle.
As a farmer, you also know that energy costs are rising and adding significantly to operating costs. Controlling these costs means becoming more aware of energy and the ways you can use electricity more effectively without compromising your farm’s productivity.
By making small changes to the way you use power, you can ensure that you get the best value for your “energy rand” and also play a part in reducing the demand for power – especially in peak periods when the possibility of load shedding is always present.
You can make a start on effective power saving by looking at your operation and assessing the equipment you use and the tasks you use it for.
Getting optimum performance from dryers
If you use dryers on your farm, remember that they can be shut down during the drying process, or can even be switched off completely. Alternatively, heating elements can be switched off and only the fans left running. Fans can be switched off for short periods without causing damage to produce such as grains, oil seeds and lucerne in the dryer. Only use the heating elements in the case of emergencies, for example during continuously rainy days and at night during the off-peak hours. When using heat, it is essential to recirculate the heated air to the inlet of the fan as this will save energy and costs.
When heating elements are used, it is advisable to insulate the ducting to minimise heat loss through the sides. It is vital that there should be no leaks in the ducting.
Making it less costly means that you should match the pipe and nozzle sizes. You should also remember that pipes with a small diameter operate at higher friction levels. More electricity is therefore needed to increase the rate of water delivery and overcome the friction.
The nozzle sizes of sprayers should be checked on a regular basis. If you reduce the wear and tear, you reduce water losses due to leaking pipes. Leaking pipes mean that pumps have to deliver more water and this increases the electricity consumption. By carrying out regular maintenance, you benefit from reduced power costs and water savings.
Using cellphone and computer technology could result in major savings. It’s a fact that if you use these methods to schedule irrigation, you can save up to 30% of the energy you generally use. Making sure that water is pumped to storage dams above irrigated areas means that you can use gravity flow, even when power is not available.
Electric motors consume vast amounts of power. The older your motors are, the higher the chances are that they use more electricity than they should. You can reduce your bills significantly by replacing these motors with new generation “high efficiency” electric motors (Eff 1). Make sure that the motors you install can run at 3/4 of their capacity to perform everyday jobs. Running at full load for long periods requires much more power.
Saving power in the dairy parlour means rinsing the milking machines with cold water directly after milking. A complete washing cycle should take place outside Eskom’s peak hours.
Ice bank cool tanks can be used to build the ice bank during off-peak hours to pre-cool and cool milk during Eskom’s peak hours.
You save electricity by keeping the doors to cold rooms properly sealed. Opening doors only when required cuts down on cold air being “leaked” into neighbouring areas. You should always also remember that overfilled coldrooms actually have a lower cooling efficiency. Air does not flow as easily between and under produce in overfilled rooms. This means that it takes longer to cool down your produce and that more electricity is needed to reach the storage temperature.
Condensers should be well ventilated to deliver the best performance. For greatest effectiveness, compressor rooms and condensers should be installed on the southern side of a building, where they are not affected by direct sunlight. You should check filters and coils regularly and see that they are always clean, and also make sure that there is enough gas in the air conditioning plant. The proper use of air curtains will also reduce the loss of conditioned air.
Coldrooms are major users of electricity. If you take several simple steps, however, cold losses can be minimised and you will benefit from lower electricity costs.
Reducing the energy needs of animal housing
Reducing the cost of animal housing begins with the building itself. Proper roof insulation ensures a cool environment throughout the year and means that less money has to be spent on additional energy to regulate temperatures. Painting a roof silver will also reflect more heat off the structure.
When using natural ventilation for animal housing, buildings should not be wider than 12 metres for optimum utilisation of wind cooling.
If you are building animal housing, remember that the long walls of the building should face north and south and the short walls should face west and east. This will help to dispel the heat that builds up inside buildings during the day.
Increasing the energy efficiency of animal feed processing plants
Animal feed processing plants usually have large numbers of electric motors. By installing a capacitor bank you can generally improve the electrical efficiency of a plant. A plant can be managed so that cleaning and operations requiring low electricity can be done during peak hours, and scheduling the actual operations outside Eskom’s peak hours.
Insulation of greenhouses
When you build greenhouses, bear in mind that a double-insulated plastic cover retains more heat and warmth in greenhouses. Keeping air and soil temperatures constant through insulation means that less energy has to be used to create warmth in the greenhouse environment.
Improving insulation and optimising ventilation systems in broiler houses are crucial for curbing energy costs, particularly in winter. Find the PDF document Keeping broiler houses tight saves money at www.eskom.co.za/sites/idm/Documents/agriculture%20poultry.pdf
Farming using alternative energy sources
As a farmer you can take steps to utilise the waste generated through normal farming operations to create energy. Harnessing the power of the sun can also save energy costs – over the years, these can add up to considerable savings and transform the way you do business.
Where considerable amounts of animal waste are present, you could investigate the possibility of using biogas installations to generate heat and electricity. These installations take the heat generated by animal waste and enable it to be piped into feedlots and piggeries for use as heating, or used for the production of cheap electricity.
If you wish to generate emergency power for short periods, consider purchasing a standby generator. Running off petrol or diesel, these generators are custom-made for various outputs. You should consider the amount of energy you will need and seek advice from an expert when considering an installation. Keep in mind that generators should only be used in well-ventilated spaces (be careful of the carbon monoxide build-up!) and should be far enough away from buildings so that their noise does not disturb people or animals.
Energy from the sun, wind and water
There are a number of options available to utilise solar power. You should investigate which of the various options available would suit you best. Solar panels can be used to supply electricity for pumping, charging batteries for lights and any other low wattage use. However, they can be expensive, have a lifespan of approximately ten years and are vulnerable to hail and theft. They also need to be cleaned regularly as dust can reduce their efficiency.
Effective water heating can be provided through a network of black polythene and copper piping through which water is pumped. This can be installed on a roof and used to heat water for the house and/or swimming-pool.
Wind energy can be used to charge batteries that can supply power to low wattage equipment in households. Where water flows constantly from a high point, the water flow can be used to generate electricity.
Using dual fuel systems for efficiency
Dual fuel systems are generally used for heating air or water in a heating system. They are frequently used for drying and intensive animal-housing operations.
The working principle is based on using heating elements during Eskom’s off-peak hours and alternative fuel during Eskom’s peak hours. Alternative fuel options are coal, gas, diesel, oil, paraffin, wood, stalks or any other medium that is readily available in the area.
The bottom line for energy efficiency is that we all bear the responsibility of doing what we can to save power. As a farmer, you have a significant role to play. You will also benefit by making your operations more cost-effective and energy-efficient – saving money while you help our country.
Associations, pressure groups & NGOs
- Agri Eastern Cape , Kwanalu and other farmer unions are necessarily in the frontline against fracking (see “Organised agriculture” chapter)
- Association of Municipal Electricity Utilities (AMEU) www.ameu.co.za
- Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) www.busa.org.za
- Energy Intensive User Group (EIUG) www.eiug.org.za
- Environmental Monitoring Group (EMG) www.emg.org.za
- National Business Initiative (NBI) www.nbi.org.za
- Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa (NIASA) www.niasa.co.za
- South Africa’s Independent Power Producers Association (SAIPPA) www.saippa.org.za
- South Africa National Energy Association (SANEA) www.sanea.org.za
- South African Gas & Oil Alliance (SAOGA) www.saoga.org.za
- Southern African Gas Association (SAGAS) www.sagas.co.za
- Treasure the Karoo Action Group (TKAG) www.treasurethekaroo.co.za
- Women in Oil and Energy South Africa www.woesa.com
Education and research
- Africa Earth Observatory Network (AEON) www.aeon.org.za
- Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) Faculty of Engineering Energy Institute Tel: 021 460 3911 www.cput.ac.za
- South African Renewable Energy Technology Centre Tel: 021 959 4320 www.saretec.co.za
- Coaltech Research Association Tel: 011 498 7652 www.woundedbuffalo.co.za
- Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Energy Materials Tel: 012 841 2911/ 3338 www.csir.co.za/energy-materials and www.csir.co.za/energy
- EWSETA – Energy and Water Sector & Training Authority Tel: 011 274 4700 www.eseta.org.za
- Fossil Fuel Foundation Tel: 011 262 6010 www.fossilfuel.co.za
- North-West University Centre for Applied Radiation Science and Technology (CARST) (Mafikeng Campus) Tel: 018 389 2757 www.nwu.ac.za
- North-West University Post-Graduate School of Nuclear Science and Engineering (Potchefstroom) Tel: 018 299 4363 http://engineering.nwu.ac.za/engineering/postgraduate-options
- Several South African universities and one research institution are involved with the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (better known as CERN) in the SA-CERN programme. See http://sa-cern.tlabs.ac.za.
- Nuclear Energy Corporation (NECSA) Tel: 012 305 4911 www.necsa.co.za
- Stellenbosch University Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies (CRSES) www.crses.sun.ac.za
- Stellenbosch University Bureau for Economic Research (BER) Tel: 021 887 2810 www.ber.ac.za
- University of Cape Town (1) Energy Research Centre Tel: 021 650 3230 www.erc.uct.ac.za (2) Hydrogen South Africa (HySA) / Catalysis Tel: 021 650 4467 www.hysacatalysis.uct.ac.za
- University of the Free State Institute for Groundwater Studies Tel: 051 401 2482 www.ufs.ac.za/igs [Professional opinion about fracking]
- University of KwaZulu-Natal Mechanical Engineering Group for Solar Energy Thermodynamics (GSET) Tel: 031 260 3201 www.ukzn.ac.za
- University of KwaZulu-Natal Energy, Food and Water Engineering Research Group http://efwe.ukzn.ac.za
- University of the Western Cape South African Institute for Advanced Materials Chemistry PetroSA Synthetic Fuels Innovation Centre Tel: 021 959 3080 www.uwc.ac.za
- University of the Witwatersrand, African Energy Leadership Centre Wits Business School, www.wbs.ac.za/centres–chairs/african-energy-leadership-centre-aelc/
- Water Research Commission Tel: 012 761 9300 www.wrc.org.za Research on geothermal energy
- ABB South Africa Tel: 010 202 6995 http://new.abb.com/africa
- Bundu Oil & Gas http://challengerenergy.com.au International fracker
- Electro Mechanica Tel: 011 249 5000 www.em.co.za Electronic automation products
- Falcon Oil & Gas www.falconoilandgas.com International fracker
- Maiden Electronics Tel: 011 468 1619 www.maidenelectronics.co.za “Power solutions for Africa”
- MBB Consulting Engineers Tel: 021 887 1026 www.mbb.co.za Energy is an area of expertise
- PetroSA Tel: 044 601 2911 www.petrosa.co.za The refinery at Mossel Bay uses gas-to-liquids (GTL) technology
- Power Star Tel: 087 820 1694 www.power-star.co.za
- Prepaid Metres Tel: 087 550 0870 www.PrePaidMeters.co.za
- SASOL Tel: 011 441 3111 www.sasol.com South Africa has a sophisticated synthetic fuels industry, producing fuel from coal
- Sonfin http://sonfin.co.za Helps farmers establish independent sources of power
- VOLTEX www.voltex.co.za “Your electrical connection” – branches across the country.
Regulatory and government
Relevant documents are the National Development Plan (NDP) and the Energy White Paper.
It has been noted that South Africa’s electricity utility (Eskom) poses perhaps the most significant threat to the South African fiscus (Erasmus, 2019). In February 2019 Finance Minister Tito Mboweni allocated ZAR 23 billion per year for three years to assist with its debt service, and emphasised that the government would not take over its debt. The cash support will be accompanied by a restructuring of the utility into three entities – for generation, transmission and distribution.
- Central Energy Fund – CEF Group of Companies Tel: 010 201 4700 www.cefgroup.co.za
- Department of Energy Tel: 012 406 8000 www.energy.gov.za The website provides overviews of the country’s energy strategy and energy sources (petroleum, natural gas, coal, renewable fuels, nuclear), legislation and programmes.
- Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) www.thedti.gov.za The second phase of the South African IEE Project (2016-2020) continues the work done in Phase I – to support industry in changing energy use patters to be more efficient and sustainable. This is part of the dti’s Industrial Policy Action Plans (IPAPs). Find the 2018/19-2020/21 document at www.thedti.gov.za.
- Eskom www.eskom.co.za The website provides contact details for Eskom power stations and visitor centres. Eskom has an Energy Advisory Service (formerly Agrelek) for farmers to help you cut costs. Services offered include: total energy analysis to identify areas of waste recommendations on process and technology improvements assessment studies to determine current and future energy needs advice on the most appropriate energy source and tariff information on the most efficient and cost-effective electro-technologies Contact an Eskom Energy Services Advisor in your region. Call 0860 037 566 or visit www.eskom.co.za/idm.
- The National Cleaner Production Centre (NCPC) is a dti programme to “contribute to building the manufacturing industry’s competitive capability in pursuit of a low carbon economy in South Africa”. See http://ncpc.co.za.
- National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) Tel: 012 401 4600 www.nersa.org.za
- South African National Energy Development Institute (Sanedi) Tel: 010 201 4700 www.sanedi.org.za Sanedi runs state-backed programmes like SAGEN (South African-German Energy Programme) and Working for Energy.
International business environment
Some international role players
- www.afdb.org – the African Development Bank (AFDB) has approved the funding of numerous projects in South Africa.
- African Energy Commission – http://afrec-energy.org
- Find the latest World Energy Outlook report at www.eia.gov, website of the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).
- Energy Watch Group – www.energywatchgroup.org
- European Nuclear Education Network (ENEN) – www.enen.eu
- EUNIFI Incubate Energy Activate Finance is an online platform to link with developers of small-scale African energy projects – www.genhub-africa.com
- International Atomic Energy Agency – www.iaea.org
- International Energy Agency – www.iea.org
- International Institute for Energy Conservation (IIEC) – www.iiec.org
- New Development Bank (the BRICS initiative) invests in energy www.ndb.int
- World Energy Council – www.worldenergy.org
- World Nuclear Association – http://world-nuclear.org
Some role players in the provision of electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa:
- Empresa Nacional de Electricidade (Angola)
- Botswana Power Cooperation (BPC) – www.bpc.bw
- Societe National d’Electricite (Democratic Republic of Congo) – www.snel.cd
- Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM) – www.escom.mw
- Electricidade de Mozambique – www.edm.co.mz
- The Mozambique Transmission Company (MORTRACO) is a joint venture between Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland – www.motraco.co.mz
- Copperbelt Energy Corporation and Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO) – www.zesco.co.zm
- NamPower (Namibia) – www.nampower.com.na
- Swaziland Electricity Company – www.sec.co.sz
- Tanzania Electric Supply Company Limited – www.tanesco.co.tz
- Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) is one of the companies supplying electricity. See the government department Ministry of Energy and Power Development website at www.energy.gov.zw.
- Eskom (South Africa) – www.eskom.co.za
- Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation
- Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) – www.kengen.co.ke
- Kenya Power – www.kplc.co.ke
- Electricity Company of Ghana – www.ecgonline.info
Read about energy supply in the SADC region at www.sadc.int (take the “Themes” and “Infrastructure” options).
Websites and publications
Visit the websites listed earlier in this chapter.
- Eskom “safety tips that save lives” at http://vrystaatlandbou.co.za/images/media/nuusflitse/2018/Publis-Safety_infogrpahic_farms.jpg
- www.esi-africa.com – the “online power journal of Africa”
- Subscribe to the weekly Energy Insight eNewsletter from www.engineeringnews.co.za.
- Saving Electricity in a Hurry is designed to help the country deal with its electricity issues. The publication, commissioned by the International Energy Agency (IEA), is a brief case study which highlights lessons from recent electricity shortfalls in Chile, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States. Find it at www.iea.org.
- Find documents on the Department of Environmental Affairs website, www.environment.gov.za, like the Sustainability of Decentralised Renewable Energy Systems report and Facilitation of large-scale uptake of alternative transport fuels in South Africa – the case for Biogas.
- The “Energy technologies” option at www.eskom.co.za (take the “about energy” option) provides overviews of biomass power, coal power, conventional hydro power, nuclear power, pumped storage, solar power, wave power and wind power.
- www.greenpeace.org/africa/en, NGO Greenpeace Africa has launched several anti-nuclear reports
- Energy and Capital – www.energyandcapital.com – “Practical Investment Analysis in the New Energy Economy”
- The Energy Collective, thinkers on energy and climate, http://theenergycollective.com
- Find the energy menu option on www.africa-adapt.net (click on “explore themes”)
- Watch the movies Gasland and Gasland Part II which explore the potential long-term environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing, including poisonous water and earthquakes.
- Hauter, W. 2015. Frackopoly: The Battle for the Future of Energy and the Environment. New York: The New Press.
- Find the blog “Agriculture has the solution to load shedding within a year”.
- Lindeque, M. 2019, March 4. “Exclusive: Illegal electricity syndicates threaten struggling Eskom”. Eye Witness News. Available at https://ewn.co.za/2019/03/04/exclusive-eskom-employee-makes-r20k-per-month-on-illegal-power-connections
- Erasmus, G. 2019, March 1. “The Energy Crisis: How will Investors look at South Africa now?” TRALAC. Available at www.tralac.org/blog/article/13930-the-energy-crisis-how-will-investors-look-at-south-africa-now.html
- Reporter. 2019, February 24. “Renewable energy programme attracts R209.4 billion to SA economy”. SA News. Available at www.sanews.gov.za/south-africa/renewable-energy-programme-attracts-r2094-billion-sa-economy
- Bulbulia, T. 2019, February 22. “SAWEA says renewables sector has proven its capacity to contribute to South Africa’s development”. Engineering News. Available at www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/sawea-says-renewables-sector-has-proven-its-capacity-to-contribute-to-south-africas-development-2019-02-22/rep_id:4136
- Davis G. & Dentlinger L. 2019, February 20. “R69 billion set aside over three years to reconfigure Eskom”. Eye Witness News. Available at https://ewn.co.za/2019/02/20/r69-billion-set-aside-over-three-years-to-reconfigure-eskom
- Bischof-Niemz, T. 2019, February 12. “Opinion: Are there really more jobs in coal than in Renewables?” Engineering News. Available at www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/opinion-are-there-really-more-jobs-in-coal-than-in-renewables-2019-02-12/rep_id:4136
- Naidoo, M. 2019, February 10. “Gas discovery could rescue South African economy – experts”. Sunday Tribune. Available at www.iol.co.za/sunday-tribune/news/gas-discovery-could-rescue-south-african-economy-experts-19223097
- Kruger, C. 2018, December 6. “Maak julself los van Eskom”. Landbouweekblad. Available at www.netwerk24.com/landbou/Nuus/maak-julself-los-van-eskom-20181206
- Winkler, H. 2018, October 22. “Why SA can’t make a big shift to renewables – yet”. The Conversation. Available at https://theconversation.com/why-south-africa-cant-make-a-massive-shift-to-renewables-yet-104734
- Cloete, K. 2018, October 19. “Breytenbach welcomes greater certainty for renewable energy projects”. Available at www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/breytenbach-welcomes-greater-certainty-for-renewable-energy-projects-2018-10-19
- Creamer, T. 2018, October 15. “South Africa’s synfuels know-how could give it edge as world mulls power fuels”. Engineering News. Available at www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/south-africas-synfuels-know-how-could-give-it-edge-as-world-mulls-power-fuels-2018-10-15
- Sihlobo, W. 2018, October 9. “Conversations about Renewable Energy in South Africa”. Available at https://wandilesihlobo.com/2018/10/09/conversations-about-renewable-energy-in-south-africaseebelow/
- Dentlinger, L. 2018, August 27. “Radebe releases draft IRP, nuclear power off table for now”. Eye Witness News. Available at https://ewn.co.za/2018/08/27/radebe-releases-draft-irp-nuclear-power-off-table-for-now
- Kriel, G. 2015, August 5. “Easy, affordable ways to cut on-farm electricity costs”. Farmer’s Weekly. Available at www.farmersweekly.co.za/farm-basics/how-to-business/easy-affordable-ways-cut-farm-electricity-costs/
- Find the article “An unenlightened vision for energy security casts a pall over our future” by Glenn Ashton on the South African Civil Society Information Service website, www.sacsis.org.za. It points out the problems with coal and nuclear, and looks at the successes (and remaining challenges) of renewables.