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From conveyor belts to insulation, CNES at UP is improving energy efficiency

The School of Engineering  at the University of Pretoria is home to many important groups dedicated to improving the national electric grid. One such group is the Centre for New Energy Systems (CNES). Headed by Professor Xiaohua Xia, this Centre aims to improve efficiency in the energy sector in South Africa.

To achieve this, CNES hosts a national hub for energy efficiency and demand side management (EEDSM) and conducts research on improving the efficiency of industrial energy systems and buildings. Prof Xia is proud of the Centre’s partnership with the power utility, Eskom, where the Centre is a major provider of measurement and verification services for South African municipalities.

In addition to the above, CNES is also host to the Exxaro Chair in Energy Efficiency (Exxaro is a coal mining company that sponsors research on energy efficiency in the coal mining sector). Through this initiative, the Centre hopes to improve energy efficiency in the industrial sector by developing more efficient technology for mining and factory processes like conveyor belts, and improving the efficiency of pumps and motors.

Another important focus area at the Centre is improving the energy efficiency of buildings through technological developments and the SANS 50010 energy efficiency measurement and verification standards.

“There are a number of building standards globally, but South Africa  was the first country to implement a national standard,” says Prof Xia. Other countries have since implemented similar standards for energy efficiency measurement and verification in buildings.

In terms of technology, CNES researchers have developed new water heating systems, improved on existing air-conditioning systems, and even looked at ways to improve overall energy efficiency through lighting, insulation technology and better building design. Researchers at the Centre also work on hybrid energy systems - combinations of different generating technologies which can provide power more efficiently depending on needs of the user.

A figure from the State of Energy Research in South Africa report produced by CNES shows that UP and Prof Xia lead the way in integrated building energy systems research in South Africa.


CNES houses a number of researchers studying different aspects of energy efficiency for buildings and industrial processes.

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