Ackermans shining example of how to cut electricity costs

Cape Town – An innovative project by retailer Ackermans to save electricity and reduce costs landed them a hot prize at the African Utility Week in Cape Town on Wednesday.

The retailer was awarded the energy and water efficiency project of the year for its project called Swatt, short for “save watts”, an initiative aimed at reducing the energy footprint of the business and achieving the highest possible return on investment through reducing electricity costs.

The scope of the project included assessing the technology, control mechanisms and behaviour relating to energy usage in all Ackermans retail outlets nationwide, and to create an ongoing integrated energy management programme that could be driven by Ackerman’s management team, and in which UGU Engineering Solutions plays a central role.

Massive savings

Jonathan Pratt, general manager for operational support at Ackermans, told Fin24 that the retailer cut down its electricity bill by 50%, which equated to about R16m or R17m a year.

The combined saving of electricity in its South African, Namibian and Botswana stores resulted in a saving of 14 000 MW hours per year. “That’s enough power for about 1 200 households for a year,” Pratt said.

From a carbon emission point of view, the retailer saved 14 000 tonnes. “We are very proud that we can have a greener footprint,” he said.

Listen to the full interview:

Interview by Matthew le Cordeur

More efficient lights and an online meter that monitors usage were key in the campaign, as well as educating staff through campaigns and incentives to save electricity.

“When staff start working, they only turn on 30% of the lights and only when they open for trade do they turn on the other 70%,” he said. “We’ve installed another 1 800 switches in stores so they have capabilities to switch areas off that are not in use.”

Next phase to tackle aircons

The second phase of Swatt will tackle air conditioning in stores, using the same three techniques from Swatt 1. They will look at upgrading to more efficient aircons and then look at switching technology so they work at their most efficient during winter or summer.

“In some pilot stores, we have installed online metering with remote control access, so you won’t have behavioural or chain management issues,” he said, adding that by the end of June they will have a business case to roll out in the next financial year.

Culture of energy efficiency

The award judges said Swatt was “an excellent project with well-documented savings and improved operations through use of technology”.

“We’re very proud to have won this award” said Pratt.

“For us it is very important to sustain this culture of energy efficiency and of giving back. We are particularly proud that most of the lights that we use are manufactured locally in Kuilsrivier.”

He said the Ackermans employees were “incredibly positive” in their response to the project.

“For them the energy that they save also means higher profits for their shops. Swatt was a combination of change management and technology and we can really measure it and are able to sustain the savings.”

(Left to right) UGU Engineering Solutions MD Wayne Walker, Jonathan Pratt, general manager for operational support at Ackermans, and UGU Engineering Solutions COO Dave Lesley at the award ceremony in Cape Town. (Photo: Supplied)

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