Giving power to people

Barclays Africa was the first organisation to partner with Eskom’s demand response programme. Under this initiative, Eskom pays organisations that have their own power generation capacity to reduce power on the electricity grid during peak times.

Barclays saves about 5 300MW/h a year off the grid between 5pm and 8pm – power that is diverted to roughly 5 200 households.

This initiative alone has reduced the bank’s carbon footprint by 3 800 tonnes and produced a profit of R5.2-million in 2013.

The bank has entrenched energy efficiency and electricity savings into its business practices through a virtual power station at the Barclays Energy Centre in Johannesburg. It has contracted specialist providers to manage the centre, as well as the operation of its natural gas generators.

Aveshen Moodley, vice president of the group’s corporate real estate solutions, says the group has an ongoing programme of energy efficiency improvements at its corporate headquarters and throughout its branch network that entails refurbishment of energy-hungry components.

It has made significant progress in this regard, with its African operations contributing a staggering 73% to the global Barclays group’s carbon emissions reduction target in 2013.

Moodley says the rationale for the virtual power station was to provide resilience to Barclays’ Johannesburg city campus, which comprises eight buildings.

This was done by installing four 2.8MW natural gas generator sets that can produce 11.2MW of electricity when operating at full capacity. The plant runs at closer to 20% of capacity and is used primarily to supplement grid power and perform peak lopping during peak tariff periods to reduce its electricity bill and carbon footprint.

Should a power outage occur, the power plant would then ensure that Barclays’ critical business operations, including its payments centre and data centre upon which its national operations are reliant, can continue uninterrupted.

This, together with other initiatives of a smaller magnitude, enabled the bank to reduce its total carbon footprint by 38 349 tonnes of CO2 equivalent. It has also cut energy consumption from 453.7GWh in 2012 to 420.4GWh – a 7% improvement.

In financial terms, this equated to a saving of more than R50-million on the bank’s utility bills.

The dividends have extended beyond the bank through its participation in Eskom’s demand response programme. The agreement has been extended until April 2015, and includes Eskom being able to call on Barclays to ramp up output from the gas generation plant from 20% to 95% in the event of a power outage.