Last week, South Africa’s Energy Utility and the EUTC (European Utility Telecoms Council) organized a conference for utilities in Africa. EUTC Africa was held at the Eskom University, the training campus of the utility Eskom. The campus is close to Midrand, about halfway between Johannesburg and Pretoria. About 180 experts, mainly from Eskom, gathered for two days to discuss the challenges around smart grids and smart meters.
These challenges can only be addressed through the implementation of a smart grid – that is, making the current grid ‘intelligent’ utilizing IT infrastructure. This implementation will enable Eskom to offer many new services which will require flexible tariff models. Another critical reason for implementing a smart grid is for the avoidance of blackouts, or system failures, which are unfortunately still quite common in Africa.
The implementation of a smart grid will require the following steps for Eskom’s telecommunications network:
Energy regulation in South Africa needs to take some major steps forward. Until today, Eskom has had almost no real competition. Yet another problem caused by the lack of regulation is the many micro grids. It is not allowed to load power produced by privately owned generators, which have been purchased to compensate for power blackouts. In addition, more and more generators based on renewable energy are being built by private owners. The existence of these micro grids could cause major problems for Eskom’s network. The demand can change at anytime due to weather or a generator running out of diesel.
Another project of Eskom’s is to improve their outage management. More automation within Eskom’s grid is needed to carry out preventive maintenance and detect power faults at customer sites.
Utilities from Spain (IBERDROLA) and Portugal (REN) also attended EUTC Africa and shared their individual experiences. Telecoms operators including Telkom SA and Vodacom joined the conference as well, because they will be supporting the utilities with specialized service offerings.
Head of Field Marketing, EMEA