Editor's Choice

WEG Africa applauds energy standards for motor efficiency

February 2024 Editor's Choice Electrical Power & Protection

In a country where most electric motors are not energy efficient, the announcement by South Africa’s government of its plans to introduce Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) is not a day too soon. This is the view of Fanie Steyn, manager of Electric Motors at WEG Africa, who says the company has argued for these MEPS for many years. “Since 2018, WEG Africa has been involved in an in-depth study into the likely impacts of MEPS for electric motors in South Africa, and whether it would make sense to regulate these products,” he explains. “The results confirmed that significant energy savings will be made.”

Research in South Africa indicates that about 200 000 electric motor units are sold each year, with almost 70% of them between the 0,75 to 11 kW size range. Up to half of these have no stated energy rating, which implies that they are the most inefficient motors available. The country’s coal-fired energy base – which results in a high emission factor for its electricity of 0,9488 – means that low-efficiency motors add substantially to carbon emissions.

“With the application of MEPS, the reduced power consumption will lead to a welcome decrease in greenhouse gas emissions,” he says. It is expected that the standards will be applied and enforced early in 2024. This will not affect the hundreds of thousands of motors already installed in industry, but will focus on the import channels. “This will ensure that only motors with a minimum of IE3 – classified by the International Electrotechnical Commission as ‘premium efficiency’ motors – will be allowed into the country.”

The products that will be affected are three-phase motors with ratings between 0,75 and 375 kW. These are predominantly two-pole, four-pole, six-pole and eight-pole motors. Steyn notes that the larger, slower 10-pole motors will not fall into this specification. Most motors sold in the industry are on the smaller end of the scale – up to around 90 kW. Motors destined for hazardous locations, such as gas or petrochemical plants, and coal mines, will also be required to comply with these efficiency standards. This includes flameproof motors, which for the first time will have a premium efficiency level,” he says.

Steyn emphasises that MEPS is a win-win solution, as government is reducing the strain on the grid while supporting its climate change commitments, and companies can make immediate savings on their energy costs. While there is a small premium on the price of a more efficient motor, this pales into insignificance compared to the electricity it consumes over a year, let alone over its lifespan of up to 20 years.

Research conducted globally has shown that almost 97% of the total cost of owning and operating an electric motor comes from the electricity it consumes. Its purchase price makes up just 2,3% of its cost to the owner, while maintenance costs add up to only 1% on average. Once MEPS is applied, the country could save around 840 GWh per annum, as about 60% of power consumed by industry is through the use of electric motors. “WEG Africa has for many years championed the benefits of high-efficiency motors,” he says. “With South Africa’s steadily rising electricity prices, the payback period for these products is as little as nine or ten months.”

To promote the use of IE3 motors, WEG Africa established dedicated assembly lines for these units at its Johannesburg facility. This will assist in meeting the rapid demand growth that will result from MEPS, and facilitate easy access to these motors. Steyn adds that there is another reason why higher efficiency is beneficial. A feature of electric motors is longer life. Better efficiency means lower heat losses, as the heat of a motor gradually degrades the insulation on the copper windings. The more heat in a motor, the more the insulation will deteriorate. High-efficiency motors reduce this heat build-up considerably.

“We applaud the step taken by government,” says Steyn. “While this does not force motor users to make any changes immediately, it encourages them to systematically replace old, inefficient motors with those rated IE3 or above. The clear financial incentive is the saving on their energy costs, so it makes sense for companies to upgrade their technology when older motors need repairing or rewinding. This makes economic sense because the cost of rewinding can be up to 60% of the price of a replacement unit. When the lower operating cost is factored into the equation, the decision to upgrade to IE3 is not difficult.”

For more information https://www.linkedin.com/company/weg-africa/"


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