Energy costs within Spar facilities can often account for up to 2-5% of the total operating expenses within a business. With the price of electricity increasing anywhere between 8-20% annually as of the 1st of July depending on who supply’s your store with electricity, this breakdown of energy operating costs is continually on the rise. In order to get control of these costs moving forward, it is important to understand how, when and where electricity is being used within your facility in order to effectively manage electricity usage. Energy management is typically broken down between the following key areas being technology, control, behaviour and monitoring.

By addressing the type of technologies installed within facilities such as the refrigeration, lighting, air-conditioning and bakery equipment, significant energy savings can potentially be achieved by installing more efficient technologies. Installing certain control measures such as a timer on the bakery ovens, will ensure that these pieces of equipment are only running when required. Educating your staff around the benefits of saving energy on a daily basis is another good starting point to save on costs within your store.

Furthermore the adage “you cannot manage what you do not measure” is paramount to an energy management plan and reducing energy consumption and costs. By measuring energy consumption in real time, energy consumption can be accurately measured, managed, reduced and communicated amongst all staff by making a previously invisible cost visible to all users. Examples of the types of loads that a store owner may want to measure may include the main incomer electricity feed, the refrigeration plant, the air-conditioning plant, the bakery, the butchery and potentially the tops store for example. By monitoring the main incomer feed to a store, one can ensure they are always being billed correctly on a monthly basis by the municipality or land lord. Tariff analysis’s can be performed at the click of a button to ensure your store is continually on the optimum electricity tariff and therefore ensuring the least amount of monthly electricity spend as possible. The question then follows:

How do I understand what is applicable to my individual store in terms of the steps to become more efficient and ultimately save on electricity costs, and what will it cost me to implement?

The answer is to perform a detailed energy efficiency assessment whereby each and every aspect within a store is looked at by energy professionals within the energy management field. The outcome will be a detailed business case highlighting each and every opportunity within a particular store and the associated costs of implementing each initiative. By systematically identifying each opportunity, it will ensure that the correct action steps are taken and no easy wins are missed. Alternatively by implementing real time energy monitoring, the real time data feed will give a store owner significant insight into your electricity usage and potentially identify energy management opportunities straight off the bat such as loads operating overnight time periods when they should be off.

Should you be interested in performing an energy efficiency assessment or implementing energy monitoring at your store, contact the Spar Group’s nationally approved Energy Service providers Terra Firma Solutions for further advice.


Up until recently, energy management literally meant capturing monthly electricity bills manually and filling them away in the accounts department where they were quickly forgotten, never to be looked at again.

Things have changed however since our first energy crisis event in 2008; rolling blackouts and rapidly increasing tariffs shocked the nation into the realisation that we no longer have cheap and reliable electricity available to us. Additionally, Eskom actually has less generating capacity than they did ten years ago; due to the aging fleet of power stations and infrastructure requiring ongoing repair, maintenance and replacement works

The need to understand your organisation’s energy consumption has now moved from being purely a billing requirement to actively managing energy as the third or sometimes even second highest expense to a business after salaries and rental.

To put things in perspective; energy monitoring is a passive approach whereas energy management proactive; when a user takes the data and applies some process to it and uses this to implement change, either technological or behavioural. Energy management can take the form of preparing energy forecasts and then tracking usage against it. It could be a review of when energy is used and focus on projects to eliminate energy consumption when it has no value. It can take many forms but ultimately it’s about doing something to change energy usage.

Aside from purely electricity cost management, there are other compelling reasons to closely manage energy consumption, for example; some older buildings have old inefficient lighting systems, air conditioning units and electric motors. Utilising energy management software one can measure the level of consumption and then apply technology to save costs. Ultimately it’s all about having access to relevant data and having the skills to evaluate the data and make recommendations that will pay back the cost of investment.

Many of you may be familiar with BMS (Building Management Systems) already, but this is not to be confused with energy management systems. BMS is designed to manage specific items such as the HVAC (Heating Ventilation and Cooling) and lighting controls. Energy management is about overall electrical usage and not just the items that the BMS manages.

Over and above the technology required to undertake energy management such as SMART digital meters and energy management software, one cannot overlook the importance of those that need to manage the facility through hands-on experience and knowledge, coupled with expert analysis of the data for implementation. Third party experts can offer a second opinion and can review a site objectively. Facilities managers are often strong on maintenance but lack the training or experience in selecting and implementing various efficiency systems. It is of equal importance to select the right partner.

A good way to start is by setting a target. Start by looking at your total energy consumption for a year and then take 10% of this. This is typically the savings goal that should be targeted. Look for an energy management system (software) that will be cost effective at this price. If your building is older or you know there is significant wastage it may be more realistic to aim for a 25% savings target. Always meter your municipal feeds – ensuring that your billing is accurate can result in a hefty saving. Next, target the big loads or older equipment. Generators are expensive to run so it makes sense to meter them. By setting a savings target and then investing in multiple meter points so you can identify where the problems lie and this is ultimately what energy management is based on. As you can see, this requires some specialist expertise and also the time allowances required to conduct the analysis.

The next question to ask is which systems or software to use? Start by assessing the product – is it used locally? Many European and US companies are selling software that can’t cope with SA’s complex tariffs. Do they sell software and metering only or have they got experience implementing energy savings projects? It’s important that you have someone who is experienced when it comes to energy management. Do they use good quality meters? It is not uncommon for ‘cost effective’ (read cheap) hardware to be installed that does not supply accurate and reliable data. This can cause a great deal of frustration for facilities managers and accounting teams.

At the end of day, what you want is a system that not only monitors your energy consumption, but also allows for analysis, either automatically, or by a qualified expert user , in order to obtain the energy data required for making decisions on implementing energy efficiency solutions. Sometimes to save money, you need to spend a little first!

After all is said and done, the bottom line is ultimately, “what drives energy efficiency?”. Without a mechanism to determine savings achieved, it is often hard to justify even the marginal cost of utilising an energy management system, let alone costly implementations.

If you want to know more about Terra Firma SolutionsEnergy Management resource; COPPER and how it has helped our clients save millions of Rands every year, call or email us.

Energy consultants and qualified electrical contractors benefit from bespoke Energy Management and Monitoring Software for their clients and earn a monthly annuity income while adding value to their client portfolio – and it costs Partners nothing!

Terra Firma Solutions has developed a Partner Program to offer the broader South African energy efficiency and electrical contractor market its Energy Management and Monitoring Software solution, COPPER.

COPPER is a cloud-based energy management software solution that assists consultants and clients alike to understand their energy consumption, tariffs and billing, energy waste and consumption behaviour.

Terra Firma Solutions has been inundated with requests to implement their solution in particular commercial properties and the manufacturing sector. Ed Gluckman, MD of Terra Firma Solutions adds, “After having installed COPPER for our clients, we quickly realised that the demand has shifted from purely billing reconciliation and utility management, to actively managing utilities as a rapidly increasing operational expense.”

He continues,” We also realised that we would never be able to meet this growing demand nationally as an organisation on our own, so have decided to look for qualified – and quality – partners to help us to install the solution throughout South Africa.”

The Partner Program has four different Partner levels: Sales, Design, Installation and Consulting Partner with varying levels of participation. The primary benefit to the partners is to have access to an Energy Monitoring tool that they can use to add value to their clients by being able to actively monitor and analyse their clients’ sites, while earning a monthly annuity from the licensing fees that the client pays for the solution. Partners pay nothing to participate in the Program, however have to go through a vetting process to become a Partner.

Depending on the number of physical meters installed and the Partner’s level, a monthly payment is made to the Partner for as long as the contract is in place. Standard contracts are 36 months in length.

“We have decided to limit the number of partners initially to ensure we can meet the customer service and support for our Partners required to ensure a quality installation and service.  At the end of the day, the end client is only really interested in saving money, so we need to ensure that we partner with others that can appreciate the business value of COPPER and ensure a cost effective, and quality installation.” says Gary Arenson, the Business Development Director of Terra Firma Solutions who is managing the COPPER Program Partners.

One of the core values at Terra Firma Solutions is “Win Win Win”. Solutions must create value for our Customers, Terra Firma and the Environment. Terra Firma solutions believes that the partner program adds another Win for our Partners. Iaian Sherwell, the Business Intelligence Manager had this to say, “We created COPPER to make it easy to SEE energy as a cost. This has made is simple for our engineers to assess energy savings and has helped us to deliver energy savings solutions with measurable ROI to our clients.  We are proud to be making this available to Partners who share our passion for winning and are excited about the difference this can make to everyone.”

Prospective COPPER partners are welcome to contact Gary directly at: or on: 011 568 0768.

Otherwise, visit the website to find out more about COPPER and the Partner Program – it costs nothing to join, so find out what sort of income you could earn by signing up!

At the beginning of March NERSA announced that they had approved an increase of 9.4% on Eskom’s sale of electricity for the period 1st April 2016 – 31st March 2017. This 9.4% is an average across all Eskom sales to its direct customers with Municipalities only paying an additional 7.857% for bulk electricity bought from Eskom. Further to this, NERSA then granted the municipalities an increase of 7.64% in their sale of electricity to customers. This comes into effect from the1st July 2016 until 30th June 2017. The lower increase to municipalities has been sparked by; amongst other criteria, the inefficient billing and collection process. Previously municipalities have been able to get away with poor billing and collection due to their larger annual increases when compared to Eskom’s bulk increase. It is unlikely municipality billing will improve in the short term and customers are often over or under billed. Whilst one may think it is to your benefit to be under billed, it is actually a major concern for customers as the municipalities are allowed to backdate their billing by 36 months if they detect a customer’s bill is incorrect.

This is where intelligent energy monitoring and management software once again proves its value. It is for this reason our engineers will regularly ask you for a copy of your latest council or Eskom bill with which they can perform a comparison against the installed metering solution (if it exists) and confirm the accuracy of the bills and advise should there be a large discrepancy. In addition to this, automated tariff calculation is becoming increasingly important. South Africa has possibly the most complex and varied electricity tariff structure in the world and changes frequently. Intelligent software should be able to determine which tariffs are applicable to you, based on the analysis of historical electricity data; and what alternative tariffs might be available too.

Along with understanding electricity consumption, increasing costs and varying tariff options; determining energy waste at an operational level is the next step in managing your electricity costs. Intelligent energy monitoring software also needs to identifying and quantifying energy wastage at your facility based on the operating hours and the expected energy baseline at different times of the day. Certain equipment has clear operating hours. For instance, lights in an office park or retail store should only be on during business hours and wastage occurs during unnecessary operation. If the lights are left on overnight, your system should be setup to use your operating hours to measure wasted energy and then give you a summary of the cost. This will provide an indication of the extent of the wastage and cost effective solutions to reduce waste.  Additional tools such as SMS alerts should also be available to set up to notifications if unexpected electricity consumption occurs. These alert can be sent to you based on predetermined parameters, such as a high nighttime base load, when the power factor drops significantly or when the maximum demand of the site is met.

Whilst electricity prices continue to increase, we strive to ensure that you are always getting the highest possible value through reducing risks and enhancing opportunities that will assist your company.

Terra Firma Solutions has developed its own Energy Monitoring and Management Software, COPPER, which meets all of the requirements listed above. If you would like to find out more about how we help our clients manage the ever increasing cost of their electricity, don’t hesitate to email us directly, or call us on 021 300 1620 or 011 568 0768.