South Africa’s Appliance Energy Efficiency Label: How we are increasing consumer awareness

22 Mar 2018

Theo Covary, Project Manager, UNDP

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. 

Figure 1.  Minimum Energy Performance Standards and the dates they went into effect for selected appliances in South Africa’s Standards and Labelling Programme.

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 this end, 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.  

Website and social media

The website (www.savingenergy.org.za) and social media (which can be accessed via the website) were launched in November 2017 and target individual appliance consumers.  Both are managed by an external media company that creates new content on a weekly basis to continuously engage viewers and prepare for the mass media campaign.

Figure 2.  Social media campaign for the S&L programme, which promotes awareness of the South African Energy Efficiency Label. 

Training for retail staff

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.

Mass media campaign

To complement the first two activities, a nationwide mass media campaign will commence in March 2018. The media campaign is anchored around government spokespersons explaining the benefits of the programme on television and radio. Newspapers advertising will also fall into the broader sphere of the campaign as well as advertising through in-store promotional adverts.

Through these awareness-raising activities, the project aims to ultimately change the way individuals choose appliances in South Africa to favour energy efficient options. Building broad understanding of appliance energy efficiency among consumers and retailers will contribute to achieving long-term shifts in individual purchasing behaviour, paving the way for more sustainable growth in South Africa.



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