Harnessing IoT and solar power for smarter energy management

When Eskom first implemented load shedding in 2007, electricity changed overnight from a resource every company could take for granted into one of the most urgent challenges in South African boardrooms. Since then, the imperative of facing up to the power crisis has grown, and not only because of heightened levels of load shedding over the past few years.

Backup Energy for Continuity

It is, of course, essential for every company to have alternative or backup energy to ensure business continuity during power outages. But rising energy costs and the growing importance of environmental sustainability have added even more impetus to the need for companies to optimize their use of electricity.

Africa’s Largest Carbon Emitter

Like businesses around the world, South African companies face growing scrutiny of their environmental, social, and governance credentials by partners, regulators, and customers. As Africa’s largest carbon emitter due to its reliance on coal-fired power, South Africa faces an uphill battle in meeting its net zero commitments. Businesses have an important role to play in this national challenge.

In addition, rising power costs since 2007 have lifted operational expenditures for most companies. Since the start of load shedding, Eskom’s electricity tariffs have increased by around 450%, by far outstripping inflation.

Eskom can be expected to continue to increase prices at a faster pace than inflation for the foreseeable future. Companies thus need to be strategic about containing the impact on their business.

IoT innovations in energy management

We recommend that the journey starts with an audit of your current energy consumption. Nearly every business has some degree of energy waste, so it is vital to work with an expert provider to understand how and when you use electricity. In doing so you can track usage patterns and pinpoint energy-hungry appliances, practices, and areas of wastage.

Smart energy solutions that leverage Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and intelligent automation software can support you in this endeavor. Today’s DB boards and inverters can be coupled with software to control and optimize power consumption. The data and insights from such a solution can help you to optimize consumption to achieve greater energy efficiency.

IoT Sensors to Create a Smart Power Ecosystem

Leading companies are using IoT sensors to create a smart power ecosystem in their buildings. Smart thermostats keep tabs on heating and cooling preferences and learn to automatically adjust the temperature inside the office. They can be controlled remotely, allowing one to check that air conditioning or heaters aren’t running when nobody is in the office.

Smart Lighting Systems

Smart lights, meanwhile, are a quick and easy way to upgrade lighting and make it more energy efficient. Once installed, smart lights can be customised, scheduled, and controlled. They can be programmed to only switch on during set hours or turn on and off when people enter and exit a room. Many smart lighting systems monitor usage, reporting on lighting requirements on a moment-to-moment basis.

Remote Control Lighting

To address appliances consuming significant energy in standby mode, you can install smart plugs. These enable companies to schedule devices and equipment to turn on and off according to their needs and to remotely switch off devices that may have been left on.

They make it possible to be more energy-conscious by collecting information about how much electricity the appliances connected are using.

Tackling the energy challenge head-on

The beauty of this approach is that you can reduce consumption and improve your carbon footprint with a few steps that are quick, easy and affordable to implement. This puts you in a great position to start transitioning to alternative energy, with a focus on choosing a solution correctly sized for your more energy efficient business.

By contrast, if you start with solar and optimise later, you may spend more on solar panels and batteries than necessary. Once your solar solution is in place, you’ll be able to use IoT sensors to track solar power production and consumption.

You can review data from your phone or an online dashboard, including energy usage over time, solar electricity generation, grid exports, and battery charge and discharge.

For example, you can identify the appliances and equipment that is responsible for using too much grid energy even when not in active use. Or you can track when it’s sunny enough to use solar power without needing to pay for extra energy from the grid.

Finally, optimising generator usage is a challenge for many companies in these times of heavy load shedding. Remote monitoring tools can help you to diagnose faults and plan services. Another useful application is using pressure, flow, and volume sensors to ensure that diesel deliveries to bowsers are accurate.

Towards a greener and more resilient future

The combination of the Internet of Things and solar promises to be transformative for energy management and sustainability by providing real-time insights, control, and optimisation of energy usage.

A data-driven approach allows for precise and proactive management of energy resources, reducing waste and lowering operational costs. This can help you to meet your sustainability goals, ensure a steady supply of energy, and ultimately reduce power costs in the years to come.