How Energy Management Standards Can Impact Load Shedding - Business Media MAGS

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How Energy Management Standards Can Impact Load Shedding

Energy management standards provide guidelines, requirements and calculations for understanding the energy baseline.

By: Rodney Weidemann.

There is little doubt that the impact of load shedding on South Africa’s mining sector has been considerable. In fact, according to Statistics South Africa, mining output slowed almost 2% in September 2023, compared to the same period in 2022, largely due to the country’s power crisis. Moreover, this was the third month in a row that output dropped off.

It is clear, notes Muhammad Ali, MD of International Organization for Standardization (ISO) specialist World Wide Industrial & Systems Engineers (WWISE), that mining operations cannot rely on Eskom’s power supply and scheduled downtime. 

“Power outages impact production targets, market share price and shareholder confidence. This in turn has a huge impact on the economy. Mining companies have therefore invested heavily in diesel generators or alternative energy, such as solar plants – but all these expenses make the cost of mining higher in SA, and investors are losing confidence and looking to put their money elsewhere,” he says.

The situation is such that top management have had to come up with innovative and impactful mitigation strategies. One of the keys ways they are doing this is by turning to standardisation.

The ISO comprises over 160 national standards bodies, and develops and publishes a wide range of proprietary, industrial and commercial standards. In 2022 alone, it published almost 25 000 international standards and standards-type documents, and SA is a major contributor to standardisation processes in Africa.

“Energy management allows organisations like mining houses to understand their significant energy uses – assets that consume the most amount of energy. The standards, meanwhile, provide guidelines, requirements and calculations to help you understand the current energy baseline,” he says. 

“Once these are established, alternative measures can be calculated using a risk-based approach, based on capital expenditure for alternative energy solutions, as a phased approach.” 

Load shedding as a whole could actually have been avoided, continues Ali, if standards were followed by Eskom from the beginning, with accountability and consequence management, as promulgated by the standards. Although the standards cannot prevent an incident, a cyber-attack or load shedding for that matter, it does allow mines to both reduce the probability and better manage the impact.

Reducing the risk of injuries

Ali says ISO 45001 is a standard that focuses on the following: awareness, consultation, communication, participation and embedding a culture of safety, before every activity that can result in injury, ill-health, or fatality. Following the processes to avoid these risks is what the standards require. This reduces the probability of impact, as each control is focused within a hierarchy that includes elimination, substitution, engineering, administrative controls and personal protective equipment.

“ISO implementation, along with an accredited certification, helps to validate the numbers on the environmental, social and governance (ESG) reports. This, in turn, increases shareholder confidence and share prices, and reduces insurance premiums.” 

The standards provide a set of requirements for achieving the goals, objectives and targets set out in the ESG framework, with an effective management system comprising policies, processes, procedures, work instructions, and systems/applications aligned with the standard requirements. These provide a structured, methodical way for any organisation to achieve ESG commitments, he says.

Ali points out that standards like ISO 45001:2018, along with regular audits of companies in terms of the Mine Health and Safety Act, are vital.

“Organisations tend to be fearful of audits when these systems are aligned to international standards and local legislation. In South Africa audit findings are generally perceived as negative, given they affect key performance indicators.

“However, audit findings should instead be encouraged. Once an expert is appointed to assist the organisation to improve, they will make top management accountable for poor maintenance plans and budget reductions that may put lives at risk. This will ultimately leave the company better off, all round,” says Ali.  

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