A simple idea helps SAP Africa cut power consumption, scoop accolade

JohannesburgSAP Africa has been recognised in the recent Second Annual Africa Energy Awards for an innovative in-house scheme that has seen the company reduce power consumption by up to 19% within a year.

The awards scheme, allied to the Power and Electricity World Africa 2009 conference held in Sandton at the end April, aims to reward excellence and innovation in the power and electricity sector. SAP Africa was placed second in the “Best Demand Side Project” category for its achievement.

“We are very excited about the accolade bestowed on SAP, particularly as we are not a direct player in the energy sector,” says Sunil Geness, corporate affairs executive for SAP Africa. “The most pleasing is that we were able to demonstrate our commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainability through this excellent employee initiated initiative.

“Aside from this, we need to give credit to Lorna Cook, head of global ecosystem and partner group – in our Johannesburg office who conceptualised the energy-saving programme, and drove the initiative that resulted in the successes we have seen in the past year.”

The energy savings – ranging between 10% and 19% in SAP’s offices in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town – were achieved on the back of a simple concept that Cook implemented throughout the company’s South African offices.

This concept centres around a core of so-called Volunteer Energy Officers in each of SAP’s buildings who are responsible for monitoring consumption, policing misuse of electricity, educating staff members and identifying measures that can help lower power usage.

As a qualified climatologist and environmentalist, Cook was able to grasp the magnitude of the load-shedding that crippled the mining industry at the beginning of 2008, and what action needed to be taken.

“Right there and then I thought someone has to do something, and why can’t I start? I looked around and thought SAP can do its bit, and that’s when I decided to volunteer,” she explains.

With the support of her superiors, she designed a programme that would help the company achieve energy savings and help educate staff members about the need to reduce electricity consumption.

“In most buildings, year-on-year, we have seen anything between 10% and 19% electricity savings. It varies from building to building, but we have well exceeded the 10% guideline given by government,” she states proudly.

She explains that the Volunteer Energy Officer concept is based on the same principle as companies’ Safety Officers, whereby they take on specific functions in addition to their normal job. In this case, however, it is not only for the good of the company, but the country as well.

Cook and her team of volunteers then set about identifying ways they could reduce electricity consumption in the office, researching energy-saving tips and calling for ideas and support from all staff members.

“In addition to that we also had to start collating energy consumption statistics so that we could track our progress. And we had some very valuable experiences when we discovered just how difficult it was to get that information; it entailed liaising with our landlords and the meter-reading companies.

So we have developed relationships with all those entities to get up-to-date statistics from around the country. But that was part of this whole programme to set ourselves objectives and track how we are doing, on a continuous basis.”

Cook says that once they were able to track and measure SAP’s power consumption it was easy to see the effect of the energy-saving measures, with most buildings showing significant savings on a month-on-month and yearly basis.

A distinguishing factor of the Volunteer Energy Officer programme is that the energy savings have been achieved without major investment.

Cook says that although some equipment such as geyser blankets and energy-efficient air-conditioning have been installed in some buildings, most of the savings have been achieved through simple measures such as switching off non-essential appliances.

“Full credit is due to the volunteer energy officers who have helped us achieve these successes. It has truly been a team effort, and proven the power of volunteering, passion and community commitment,” she says.

These efforts have also been recognised by SAP’s head office and now serves as a benchmark for the German software giant, with Cook being called upon to share her experiences and knowledge throughout the global group so that it can apply these measures where possible.


SAP is the world’s leading provider of business software(*), offering applications and services that enable companies of all sizes and in more than 25 industries to become best-run businesses. With more than 86 000 customers in over 120 countries, the company is listed on several exchanges, including the Frankfurt stock exchange and NYSE, under the symbol “SAP”. For more information, visit http://www.sap.com.

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