The South African wine industry has had an increased focus on energy efficiency, contributable to a number of drivers.

Rising cost of electricity

Two factors influence the cost of energy in South Africa: the security of electricity supply (capacity), and the rising energy resource prices due to limited availability. The majority of electricity in South Africa is generated from (old) coal-fired power stations. Recently, Eskom has been under pressure to guarantee security of supply, and the addition of new assets that are dependent on variable resource prices has meant the inevitable increases in electricity prices.

The South African wine industry is vulnerable to climate change as this will affect grape growing directly, since the result of climate change is the increase in extreme weather events, such as droughts and floods. Our electricity has a high carbon emissions factor, compared to the rest of the world. These factors make it essential for the energy users to adopt more sustainable methods of utilising energy.

Political landscape

The South African government has set carbon emissions reduction targets through the National Development Plan. This has led to stricter energy regulations, as well as subsidies and rebates that have been made available through green economy initiatives. Internationally, carbon taxation is a threat for South African wine producers as our wine inherently has a high carbon footprint due to the electricity from Eskom, and the distance to market.

Consumer awareness

Consumers are increasingly becoming more aware of the impact of their product choices. Consumers are then asking more questions than ever, while the internet and social media have made ethical consumer behaviour easier. The growing prevalence of “green marketing” is indicative of this trend. Informed consumers are likely to give preference to a product produced by a company who is making an effort to use sustainable production methods.

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Lourensford PV (photovoltaic) installation.

TABLE 1. Key aspects for a winery to engage with a service provider. TABLE 1. Key aspects for a winery to engage with a service provider. Typical winery energy consumption distribution. Typical winery energy consumption distribution.

 

Competitive advantage

Improving energy efficiency will reduce the cost of production, which, in turn, will increase the profit margin on the sale of a bottle of wine. Wineries that are taking action to become more energy efficient may be eligible to benefit from financial incentives provided by the government, such as subsidies and rebates. By investing in renewable energy, a winery is also likely to improve energy security in the long term.

Towards best practice energy management

These drivers then mean that the energy performances in the wine industry need to be improved. Typically, better energy performance can be attained in two ways: behavioural change, and technical interventions.

However, it is often difficult to sustain improvement efforts over a period. Common pitfalls when attempting to improve energy performances, include:

  • Not enough resources are allocated – there is not enough time to focus on energy or limited finance is available for energy efficiency projects.
  • Improvements are focused on technical interventions only – employees are not aware of energy or the influence they have as end users.
  • One person is responsible for energy in the winery – all knowledge resides with one person and that knowledge is not easily accessible to the rest of the winery.
  • Improvements are not measured – there seems to be no change in the energy consumed although energy savings projects have been implemented.

The need was then identified to develop an appropriate guideline to implement an Energy Management System (EnMS), based on best practices elsewhere, but tailored for the South African context.

The objectives, and benefits, of such an EnMS, include:

  • It is a system designed to save money;
  • Based on world-class, best-practice, and tried and tested methods;
  • Based on a continuous improvement (Plan – Do – Check – Act) cycle;
  • A focus on improving energy performance and not on developing a management system; and
  • Sustainability is built into the system.

In contrast to other international energy efficiency guidelines for wineries, the developed document of Stellenbosch University, which was funded by Winetech, is an attempt to explain the principles and steps of an EnMS, as outlined in the ISO50001 standard, and illustrates how an EnMS may be applied to a winery situation. Furthermore, it shows by way of case studies from South African wineries, typical energy savings opportunities that exist. However, the energy efficiency and cost cutting initiatives can be capital intensive. It is then advisable that the winemaker approaches the EnMS systematically. The first step would be, after identifying low hanging fruit (potential savings), to engage with a service provider. This would be on a high level where the winery can pose all the relevant questions that would assist in decision-making. The key critical aspects (summarised in Table 1) would be useful to the winemaker or operations manager in deciding whether to go ahead with a project; and thus to engage with the service provider. The full document can be downloaded at http://www.sawislibrary.co.za/dbtextimages/BrentA.pdf or on Winetech’s website www.winetech.co.za.

Wine cellars and producers are also urged to make use of the carbon calculator to measure their carbon footprint in preparation for the implementation of carbon tax. Visit www.climatefruitandwine.co.za.

– For more information, contact Alan Brent at acb@sun.ac.za.

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