Addressing delegates at the opening of the 2017 PowerGen and Distributech Africa conference and exhibition, Lynne Brown, the minister of public enterprises, said that in satellite photos, Europe, North America and other regions were lit up like Christmas trees, while Africa remained the “dark continent”.
In her keynote address, Brown called on stakeholders at the conference to network and share information to lay the groundwork for a future in which Africa’s infrastructure deficit was overcome. She said that when future generations look at satellite images of Africa they should see that the continent has truly emerged from the darkness: an electrified and industrialised continent.
Zethembe Khoza, the interim chair of the event’s host utility, Eskom, said that although the power utility had suffered some setbacks it had now met South Africa’s power deficit. Eskom, he said, has 29 power stations with a total nominal capacity of 44 GW. Across Africa, energy growth remains low, with approximately 60% of Africans living without electricity, he said. Advancements in generation and distribution technologies such as energy storage, distribution data storage, off-grid solutions, smart grid technologies, electric vehicles and new renewable and clean energies all impact on how the energy industry can improve the lives of millions of people.
Africa has a momentous task ahead, he said, but the spirit of progress, innovation, partnership and integrated advancement of our industry will help us unite as a single super-grid in future. Eskom is open to continue doing business with the rest of Africa, Khoza said.
George Njenga, the regional executive of GE’s steam power systems, called for more creative financing and risk sharing to drive further investment in pan-African power infrastructure. New technologies and innovation is generation and distribution could also serve to speed up efforts to make power more affordable and accessible to everyone, he said.
He said that the past year had been characterised by international developments that had impacted Africa’s power sector. Njenga said the industry needs to create a strong ecosystem, where government and the private sector can work together to address competitiveness, drive ethical and transparent business practices, to reduce risk, with the aim of lowering the cost of doing business and building the local economy.
New technologies and the industrial internet of things (IIoT) could spur development and progress in the power sector, said Leon Viljoen, the managing director of ABB Southern Africa. He said that automation has improved the power sector’s productivity from 50 to 65%. By means of centralisation and ERP systems, that figure has grown to 80% in most power plants. He said that his company believes that productivity could be increased even further, closer to 95% by embracing the technologies in an IIoT environment.
He added that big data analysis could also help to reduce costs, improve profitability and increase availability in power plants. The amount of data generated by power plants is overwhelming, but in many cases very little of it is harnessed, he said.
During the opening session of the event, which took place in July at the Sandton Convention Centre, in recognition of Nelson Mandela day, the managing director of PennWell, the event organiser, handed a cheque to the value of R30 000 to Dr. Jeremy Leggett, the director and founder of SolarAid, an international charity which seeks to combat poverty by providing access to solar lights in some of the most remote regions of Africa.
According to the event organisers, 75 exhibitors from 32 countries and over 2800 people, from 62 countries, attended the event.
Source: EE plublishers