Energy efficiency and the law: a multidisciplinary approach

06 April 2017

South Africa is an energy-intensive country. The inefficient use of, mostly, coal-generated energy is the cause of South Africa’s per capita contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and environmental degradation and negative health impacts. The inefficient use of the country’s energy also amounts to the injudicious use of natural resources. Improvements in energy efficiency are an important strategy to stabilise the country’s energy crisis. Government responded to this challenge by introducing measures such as policies and legislation to change energy consumption patterns by, amongst others, incentivising the transition to improved energy efficiencies. A central tenet underpinning this review is that the law and energy nexus requires a multidisciplinary approach as well as a multi-pronged adoption of diverse policy instruments to effectively transform the country’s energy use patterns. Numerous, innovative instruments are introduced by relevant legislation to encourage the transformation of energy generation and consumption patterns of South Africans. One such innovative instrument is the ISO 50001 energy management standard. It is a voluntary instrument, to plan for, measure and verify energy-efficiency improvements. These improvements may also trigger tax concessions. In this paper, the nature and extent of the various policy instruments and legislation that relate to energy efficiency are explored, while the interactions between the law and the voluntary ISO 50001 standard and between the law and the other academic disciplines are highlighted. The introduction of energy-efficiency measures into law requires a multidisciplinary approach, as lawyers may be challenged to address the scientific and technical elements that characterise these legal measures and instruments. Inputs by several other disciplines such as engineering, mathematics or statistics, accounting, environmental management and auditing may be needed. Law is often described as the catalyst for change, building bridges between different academic disciplines, and driving behavioural changes that are not only enforced by government, but that are also voluntarily adopted by the users themselves.