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Using energy profiles to identify university energy reduction opportunities

Nandarani Maistry (Department of Geography, Environmental Management and Energy Studies, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa)
Harold Annegarn (Department of Geography, Environmental Management and Energy Studies, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa AND Energy Institute, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town, South Africa)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 7 March 2016




The purpose of this paper is to outline efforts at the University of Johannesburg, a large metropolitan university in Gauteng province, to examine energy efficiency within the context of the green campus movement, through the analysis of electricity consumption patterns. The study is particularly relevant in light of the cumulative 230 per cent increase in electricity costs between 2008 and 2014 in South Africa that has forced institutions of higher education to seek ways to reduce energy consumption.


A quantitative research design was adopted for the analysis of municipal electricity consumption records using a case study approach to identify trends and patterns in consumption. The largest campus of the University of Johannesburg, which is currently one of the largest residential universities in South Africa, was selected as a case study. Average diurnal consumption profiles were plotted according to phases of the academic calendar, distinguished by specific periods of active teaching and research (in-session); study breaks, examinations and administration (out-of-session); and recesses. Average profiles per phase of the academic calendar were constructed from the hourly electricity consumption and power records using ExcelTM pivot tables and charts.


It was found that the academic calendar has profound effects on energy consumption by controlling the level of activity. Diurnal maximum consumption corresponds to core working hours, peaking at an average of 2,500 kWh during “in-session” periods, 2,250 kWh during “out-of-session” periods and 2,100 kWh during recess. A high base load was evident throughout the year (between 1,300 and 1,650 kWh), mainly attributed to heating and cooling. By switching off the 350 kW chiller plant on weekdays, a 9 per cent electricity reduction could be achieved during out-of-session and recess periods. Similarly, during in-session periods, a 6 per cent reduction could be achieved.

Practical implications

Key strategies and recommendations are presented to stimulate energy efficiency implementation within the institution.

Originality Value

Coding of consumption profiles against the academic calendar has not been previously done in relation to an academic institution. The profiles were used to establish the influence of the academic calendar on electricity consumption, which along with our own observation were used to identify specific consumption reduction opportunities worth pursuing.



The University of the Johannesburg is thanked for funding support to the SeTAR Centre. This project formed part of the EnerKey Sustainable Megacities – Gauteng project, in partnership with the University of Stuttgart and funded by the German BMBF and the South African National Research Foundation. The authors would also like to thank the staff members at the Operations Division of the University of Johannesburg for their co-operation.


Maistry, N. and Annegarn, H. (2016), "Using energy profiles to identify university energy reduction opportunities", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 17 No. 2, pp. 188-207.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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