Smart Living: Energy

Every day, we use energy for different activities, from heating and cleaning to transport and communication. The energy we use comes in a variety of forms, namely liquid fuels, such as petrol, paraffin and diesel; gas, or electricity. In South Africa, liquid fuels come from oil and coal, while electricity is mainly generated from coal and nuclear power. These sources of energy are non-renewable and will run out. Oil is predicted to run out in about 40 years. However, there are also renewable sources of energy that will not run out, such as solar, biomass and wind, which can be used to generate electricity

Traditionally, electricity in South Africa has been cheap, but this is changing due to ageing infrastructure, limited fuel resources, and international pressure with regard to climate change. Since 2006, South Africa has had insufficient supply of electricity. While plans are underway to address this, this crisis will persist until at least 2016. The price of electricity will increase substantially in the coming years, therefore, our actions need to be energy efficient, and we must utilise renewable energy whenever possible.

Why is energy efficiency important?

  • The main energy challenges facing us are as follows:
  • Eskom tariffs and fuel prices are rising, and we have already been affected by power outages.
  • Oil and coal are limited resources that will eventually run out (oil in approximately 40 years; coal in
  • approximately 150 years).
  • There are several health problems associated with the different ways in which we generate energy.
  • Emissions/pollutants are changing our environment.
  • Our roads are becoming increasingly congested, which implies increasing air pollution and increased
  • energy usage, as well as an increasing number of traffic accidents.
  • The two main energy categories are non-renewable and renewable energy.
  • A non-renewable resource is a natural resource that cannot be produced, regrown, regenerated or reused
  • fast enough to sustain its consumption rate indefinitely. These resources often exist in a fixed amount, or
  • are consumed much faster than nature can recreate them. Fossil fuel (such as coal, petroleum and natural
  • gas) and nuclear power (made from uranium) are examples of non-renewable resources.
  • A renewable resource, on the other hand, has an ongoing or continuous source of supply (such as wind
  • and solar power), and usually emits less carbon when electricity is generated.


What can we do?

There are many quick, simple and inexpensive things we can do to help:

  • Calculate your energy use. Audit your home to calculate what you can save.
  • Use less fuel. Walk, cycle, share lifts, use public transport, drive more efficiently, or drive smaller, more
  • efficient vehicles.
  • Use less electricity. Buy energy-efficient appliances and lights, and turn off unused lights and appliances
  • instead of leaving them in ‘standby’ mode.
  • Use less hot water. Fit a geyser timer, use low-flow showerheads or install a solar water heater, shower
  • rather than bath, and turn off the running tap while brushing your teeth.
  • Cook efficiently. Use lids, the right size pans, or a Hot Box. A Hot Box is an insulated container in which
  • you place a cooking pot. The box keeps the food hot and cooking, without using any energy.
  • Cool efficiently. Fill your fridge as much as possible, make sure seals are clean and in good order and use
  • natural shade and ventilation around your house.
  • Wash efficiently. Fill your washing machine or dishwasher completely, and use colder, more efficient cycles
  • on your washing machine.
  • Heat your home efficiently. Stop draughts, use thermostats, insulate your home, and install a ceiling.
  • Support ‘green energy’. Install a solar water heater or photovoltaic panels, and buy renewable-energy
  • certificates.

Download the complete Energy Section of the Smart Living handbook Here