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SA must harness global
energy trends

The streets of China’s urban centres paint a picture of the future, writes TREVOR BREWER, director of air treatment specialists Solenco.

As the world grapples with the urgent need to mitigate climate change, industries are pivoting towards low-emission, low-energy solutions, with electric vehicles (EVs), solar technology, and air treatment products at the forefront of transformation and innovation. 

In the landscape of global trade shows, the Canton Fair Trade Complex, held in Guangzhou in China, stands as a beacon of innovation, showcasing a myriad of products ranging from agricultural equipment to smart home devices. To give some context, the fair is held twice a year and housed in multiple interconnected buildings spanning 1,100,000 square metres of indoor exhibition space – approximately 5 times the size of the OR Tambo International Airport building and spanning multiple levels. Amidst its diverse array of products available for export, a clear trend emerges: a fervent drive towards energy efficiency and sustainability.

Electric vehicles: a quiet revolution

The streets of China’s urban centres paint a picture of the future, where the hum of internal combustion engines has been replaced by the silent glide of electric vehicles. With even taxis and delivery scooters powered by batteries, China is spearheading the transition towards zero-emission transportation. Brands like BYD (Build Your Dreams), dominating even Tesla in sales, underscore the rapid evolution of this sector. The implications are profound, not just for urban noise pollution but for air quality and energy consumption as well.

Solar power and beyond: innovations in energy

At the heart of this energy revolution lies solar technology, with advancements in solar panels and inverters driving accessibility and affordability. The commoditisation of domestic and industrial solar products heralds a new era of decentralised energy production, empowering communities to harness renewable resources. This trend is particularly significant for under-developed countries in Africa, where microgrid solutions have the potential to leapfrog the demand for expensive national infrastructure like power stations on the pathway to energy independence and sustainability.

Air treatment products: breathing easier

As urbanisation accelerates and air quality declines, the demand for air purifiers and dehumidifiers has surged. In China, where air pollution and humidity pose significant challenges, these products have become ubiquitous. However, this trend is not confined to East Asia. Across the globe, consumers are prioritising indoor air quality, fuelled by the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and the increased burning of fossil fuels with resultant health concerns.

South Africa: navigating the transition

In South Africa, a nation grappling with energy crises and environmental challenges, these global trends are beginning to take root. From the widespread adoption of solar technology to the burgeoning market for air treatment products, the trajectory is clear. As consumers become increasingly conscious of their energy footprint and the health implications that come hand-in-hand with polluted air, the demand for low-emission, energy-efficient solutions is poised to soar.

Seizing the opportunity

For South Africa, the overarching shift towards energy efficiency presents both challenges and opportunities. By innovating and adapting to changing consumer preferences, there is opportunity for business to  carve out a niche in this evolving landscape. In China, traditional appliances like tumble-driers are fast becoming redundant with a scarce present at even the largest trade shows in the world. So whether it’s bringing more relevant products to market, or introducing smaller, more efficient consumer technology that is fit for purpose, or integrating solar-powered air conditioning systems into new builds as an example, the potential for growth and transformation is immense.

Looking ahead

As we navigate the complexities of a rapidly changing world, one thing remains certain: the imperative to embrace sustainability and energy efficiency. By harnessing global trends and leveraging innovative technologies, South Africa can lead the charge towards a greener, more resilient future.

The journey towards energy efficiency is not just a global phenomenon; it’s a transformative force that’s reshaping industries and economies worldwide. For South Africa, it’s not just about keeping pace with these changes, or even keeping the lights on in the face of worsening loadshedding. It’s about seizing the opportunity to chart a new course towards sustainability and better health.

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