The largest hospital group in South Africa is implementing an ambitious energy efficiency programme involving all its existing and new hospitals across the country. This will reduce the company’s carbon footprint while generating savings.

Andre Nortje is always very excited to take visitors up to Pretoria East Hospital’s rooftop, in the South African capital. With the sun beating down upon it an average of 8.6 hours per day, the rooftop hosts 3,096 solar panels facing mostly north, but also east and west. 
“On average, 30 percent of our energy at the Pretoria East hospital is powered by solar photovoltaic (PV) panels”, Nortje, an Energy Engineer at Netcare Hospitals, says. “However, during peak hours – between 12pm and 2 pm – our solar panels provide 80 percent of the hospital’s energy”.

A long-standing commitment

Netcare embarked on its first energy efficiency pilot project in 2012 when the hospital group began looking at ways to decrease its carbon footprint at the same time as reducing its electricity bill. However, like many large-scale businesses, they had to keep an eye on their accounts by balancing profitability with environmental concern: “To measure is to know, so at that time we began researching and analyzing data to assess whether we could increase our energy efficiency through installing solar PV panels”, Nortje says. 

South Africa, Netcare, Frisone
South Africa, Netcare, Frisone
When low-carbon and savings go hand in hand
A year later, Netcare began rolling out a ten-year sustainability and energy management strategy. Its objective: to reduce the group’s environmental impact by 35% and save R 1 billion (EUR 57 million) by the end of 2023. The strategy will also result in less carbon emissions – approximately 500,000 – 600,000 tons of CO2– over a decade.

With a R 500 million (EUR 28.5 million) loan from AFD via Nedbank, Netcare was able to scale up its sustainability and energy management programme in order to reach its goal of installing energy efficiency upgrades in 52 hospitals, rooftop solar PV installations at 51 facilities and energy intensity reductions at three newly built hospitals.

"The biggest obstacle to using solar energy is the large initial capital needed," says Andre Nortje. “But if someone can help you finance the system, you can pay it back quickly enough with the money you save on energy costs. The loan that AFD gave us allowed us to accelerate the implementation of the project. "
Netcare’s energy efficiency project is the largest of its kind in the healthcare sector in South Africa. Its environmental impact is undeniably impressive, as described by Johan Durand, Environmental and Sustainability Manager at Netcare:

“With 28,800 solar PV panels installed on our hospitals across the country, we are generating 14,7 GWh of energy and saving 14,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year”.
South Africa, Netcare, Frisone
Air conditioning with a low-carbon footprint

Netcare Pretoria East Hospital has also installed a low-energy ventilation and air conditioning system. This uses pumps to move the heat from a place to be cooled to a place to be heated. This system reduces the amount of energy needed to cool the operating rooms and heat the water. In addition, 130,000 light bulbs were replaced by low-energy bulbs, such as LED bulbs and T5 fluorescent bulbs. This change alone saved the company R 22 million (EUR 1.4 million) a year.

On the frontlines of the fight against global warming

“Although we have increased our number of beds by 10 percent since 2013, we have reduced our total energy consumption by 7 percent. This means a total energy saving of 17 percent since 2013”, says Jacques du Plessis, Managing Director of Netcare’s hospital division. Earlier this year, the company participated in the 2020 Health Care Climate Challenge and won four Climate Champion Awards from Global Green & Healthy Hospitals (GGHH).  

 “We are striving to become a model for sustainability within the South African healthcare sector.  We are focusing on energising our facilities through renewable sources, and are also looking at reducing medical waste and water consumption through grey and waste water treatment systems”, says Du Plessis. “Ultimately we aim to make our carbon footprint as little as possible, in line with the COP21 goals to limit global warming”. At the hospital as elsewhere, the climate emergency is in everyone's mind.

South Africa, Netcare, Frisone
© Chiara Frisone


Sunref, towards a greener future

Sunref is one of several innovative tools developed by AFD to promote “green” finance tailored to the needs of countries as they undertake their own energy transition. 

Sunref supports financial institutions like Nedbank and their clients with their projects promoting the use of ‘green’ energies and the sustainable management of natural resources. Sunref’s innovation is based on the combination of a financial and technical approach: providing tailor-made financial instruments, at the same time as building the capacity of banks and their clients to implement green energy projects. The ultimate goal is to support economic actors in the transition toward a low-carbon economy.

Sunref, which stands for Sustainable Use of Natural Resources and Energy Finance, has already implemented 50 projects that support financial institutions towards adopting a more sustainable model of development. These projects make up 20% of AFD’s investments in the energy sector between 2012 and 2015, and 15% of its investments in the climate sector in 2016.


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