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To beat load shedding, FNB is switching to big batteries, and away from dirty, expensive diesel

Business Insider SA
FNB branch (Image supplied)
FNB branch (Image supplied)
  • South African businesses use diesel generators to keep the power on during Eskom's bouts of load shedding.
  • But the price of diesel has surged by almost 60% over the past year.
  • And environmentally conscious companies looking to lower their carbon footprint are hesitant to keep burning fuel for electricity.
  • That's why FNB has replaced the need for diesel-powered generators in more than 200 branches.
  • The bank plans to have lithium-ion and UPS systems at an additional 200 branches "within the next year to ensure an uninterrupted power supply."
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

First National Bank (FNB) is moving away from diesel generators and toward lithium-ion batteries to stave off the effects of load shedding.

South African businesses are doing everything in their power to minimise the impact of load shedding. For some corporations, that includes turning to renewable energy, like solar power. For others, diesel-powered generators have been the more affordable option.

But diesel has its drawbacks. For starters, these generators are becoming much more expensive to run. Fuel prices have reached record highs, and a litre of diesel today costs almost 60% more than it did a year ago. As long as oil prices remain volatile, South Africans can expect pain at the pumps to continue.

Burning diesel also emits carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas. For environmentally conscious companies, reducing their carbon footprint has become a key issue within corporate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) targets.

In an effort the lessen its carbon footprint, FNB has already replaced the need for diesel-powered generators in more than 200 branches. The bank aims to equip a further 200 branches with lithium-ion and UPS solutions "within the next year to ensure an uninterrupted power supply."

An Uninterrupted Power Supply – or UPS – is a backup source of power that collects and holds charge from the grid. When the grid's electricity falters, like during load shedding, the energy stored within the UPS' lithium-ion battery is automatically released to power equipment.

These UPS' have become popular in South Africa amid Eskom's woes, especially when it comes to powering laptops and fibre internet. UPS systems needed to power entire bank branches are considerably bigger than those used at home.

Installing UPS systems at their branches isn't the only change FNB is making to lower its electricity use and carbon footprint. The bank is also installing LED lights in all new branches and retrofitting existing branches with the more energy-efficient bulbs. It's also capping its air conditioning units at 22°C during working hours.

"It's our collective responsibility to ensure that we play our role in saving electricity, but more importantly, to be mindful of our impact on the environment," said Lee-Anne van Zyl, CEO of FNB Points of Presence.

"Despite frequent load shedding, we have been able to keep our branches open and provide all of our services to customers."

Downsizing and digitising also form a part of FNB's energy-saving programme. Future modernised branches will average 350 metres squared instead of the current 460 metres squared.

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