Skip to main content

is a Project Manager at the United Nations Development
Programme and coordinates the development and implementation
of South Africa’s Standards and Labelling Programme.

South Africa’s national policy to meet its dual objectives of universal electrification   and economic growth must be balanced against its international commitment to reduce its greenhouse  gas emissions.  As the continent’s biggest CO2 emitter, due to the almost exclusive use of coal for power generation and its historically energy intensive  economy,  energy  efficiency projects can offer reductions in the short term. The residential appliance Standards and Labelling  (S&L) Programme  is precisely one such project.

In 2010, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the United National Development Programme (UNDP), in partnership with the South African Department of Energy (DoE), conducted a techno-economic analysis and identified 12 residential appliances to be included in the country’s S&L programme. The table below lists the appliances selected, the Minimum Energy Performance Standard (MEPS), and the effective dates. A 2015 analysis undertaken by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory estimated that, if implemented as expected, carbon savings from the S&L programme would amount to 2.1 million tonnes and 5.49 million tonnes of CO2 by 2020 and 2030.

To realise these benefits and maximise energy savings, the project team identified that the mandatory requirements (MEPS and a label) would need to be supported by the public. To bring this idea to action, a detailed communication plan was developed in 2016, which is currently being implemented. The plan is built around three activities: 1) Website and social media; 2) Training of appliance retail sales staff; and 3) A nationwide mass media campaign. A fourth activity, in store promotions and discount coupons on purchases of high efficiency appliances, was added in 2018.


The      website (,     Facebook ( and Twitter pages ( were launched in November 2017. The social media sites are actively managed and new content is created on a weekly basis to continuously engage viewers. These efforts are supported by a media campaign (see below).


In parallel, the project organised training for employees of the country’s major appliance retailers. Providing one-off training was deemed to be an ineffective approach for a range of reasons, including: large numbers of staff and high turnover rates; poor replicability; high training costs; and other practical factors. To overcome these challenges, training material was developed and made freely available via an online portal. Retailers were invited to attend one of nine national “train the trainer” workshops, resulting in over 250 sales managers being trained. The rationale behind S&L, mandatory obligations, and techniques on how to use the energy label as a sales and marketing tool, were covered in the training.


To complement the social media campaign and training, a nationwide mass media campaign was launched in March 2018. The media campaign is anchored around government spokespersons explaining the benefits of the programme on television and radio. Newspaper advertising is also included in the broader sphere of the campaign as well as advertising through in-store promotional adverts.

Finally,  the  programme developed a mobile APP, which is freely available on Android and iPhone (Appliance Energy Calculator).  The  APP  allows consumers  to  compare the upfront cost with the 10-year running costs of appliances to further nudge consumers in the direction of life cycle costing. The programme has also started working towards introducing a QR (quick response) code on all energy labels, which will be accessed through the APP. Through these awareness-raising activities, the project aims to encourage purchasing decisions on efficient appliances in the country.Building  a broad understanding of appliance energy efficiency amongst consumers and retailers will contribute  to  achieving permanent savings in residential electricity consumption thus making it more affordable and sustainable.

Theo Covary, Project Manager, UNDP