For 23 years, Eskom has been recognising and rewarding excellence in energy efficiency with their prestigious eta Awards. These awards recognise exceptional effort in the more efficient use of energy by businesses, industry and even individuals, encouraging people to make a difference in contributing to a ‘greener’ world.

The independent panel of judges includes experts from South African universities and other bodies like the Green Building Council and the Da Vinci Institute, as well as several specialists in the energy efficiency arena.

This highly qualified and talented panel of judges includes members who have been involved in the eta Awards since their inception in 1985. Their continued dedication to the project says much about the excellent work that the awards are doing in creating awareness and encouraging energy efficiency.

Dr Elsa du Toit has been part of this dedicated panel since 2003. She is proud to be a part of the eta Awards and its continued objective to put energy efficiency on the map.

Energy efficiency positively contributes to all three pillars of sustainability, namely environment, economic growth and social upliftment,” she says.

“You would think that everybody would have climbed on the bandwagon by now. Unfortunately this has not happened for various reasons, of which the biggest one is pure ignorance. That is why the eta Awards are so important to me. They provide evidence and proof of what can be achieved by putting in a little extra effort, which motivates those who couldn’t care less. It puts the responsibility for the energy crisis squarely where it belongs – in the lap of the citizens of the country.

“Sometimes the kids come up with the brightest innovations and they are so excited about the outcome, which makes the rest of us feel guilty. I like being a judge because I learn something new every year. In a world full of bad news, this is a good news item and it encourages me to continue to fight the good fight in a world full of sceptics,” she continues.

Dr du Toit holds a PhD in Energy and Sustainability from the University of Cape Town. From 1997 to 1999 she managed the Energy Efficiency Sub-Directorate as deputy director Energy Efficiency in the Department of Minerals & Energy. Projects included the development of energy efficiency standards for commercial buildings, energy efficiency in industry projects, and the energy week awareness campaign aimed at the domestic sector.

She became the deputy director Electricity Policy from 1 April 1999. In 2004 she was appointed Director: Energy Efficiency and Environment. Her main responsibilities were the implementation of the Energy Efficiency Strategy which has agreed to targets in energy efficiency that have to be achieved by 2015 by all the different sectors in South Africa.

Dr du Toit left the Department of Energy in 2009 and joined Saha International, an international consultancy in the fields of transport, energy and water, as associate director.

She is a firm believer in the healthy competition inspired by the eta Awards – a reason why she believes people should enter the competition.

“The other very important reason is the data,” she says. “It provides actual case studies with accurate measurements that can prove to the bean counters in a business that it actually works. I have heard from so many energy efficiency enthusiasts who have presented their case for energy efficiency projects – and the savings that could accrue as a result – to the CFO, who said it was “too good to be true” or “not a priority at this time” and would not approve it.

“Information sharing is of the utmost importance and unfortunately the entire management team must be persuaded – even those who are not technically inclined. The eta Awards contributes to getting that message across,” du Toit adds.

As a judge, she is constantly inspired by the look on people’s faces and the excitement of the presenters when they announce how much money has been saved in households, schools or businesses.

“The energy savings and environmental benefits are mentioned, but money talks!” she notes.

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