Exclusive interview with Leon Furstenburg, Managing Director of Knight Piésold in Southern Africa. Knight Piésold is an exhibitor at the upcoming Clean Power Africa expo and a regular contributor at Hydropower Africa.
1) What is on the calendar for the next year for Knight Piésold?
Continuing to grow as a profitable organisation despite the broader world economic outlook. The commodities market has slowed somewhat but there is an almost worldwide under supply of electricity, much of which will be generated from hydropower plants. We will continue to be active in both these markets. We may also look at opening a new office or two in Africa.
2) What current projects are you most excited about?
It is not easy to choose. Within South Africa we are of course very excited about the ongoing construction of the 1330MW Ingula Pumped Storage Hydropower plant for Eskom. When it comes online it will be Eskom’s hydropower flagship. (Joint Venture Partners are SSI and Arcus Gibb). In the rest of Africa there are many other initiatives and/or projects but the flagship would be a 247MW cascade hydropower scheme to be built soon in Zambia.
3) What are your most proud of in terms of Knight Piésold’s recent achievements?
The excellence of work being produced by the firm around the globe. Over the last number of years the firm has won numerous awards for excellence and we see this trend continuing. Last year, in Canada, we won the Employer of Choice award. This type of outside recognition leaves one proud.
4) What makes Knight Piésold successful?
Adherence to its basic values of trust and honesty.
5) What do you think are the main challenges currently in the hydropower industry in Africa?
There are many but the two most important challenges, in my book, are: Firstly the inability to raise adequate funding to do proper bankable feasibility studies. There are many good, desperately needed, projects in Africa that simply cannot get to the finalisation of a bankable feasibility study. Without such a report, the projects will never proceed irrespective of whether they are needed and whether there is construction/investment funding interested. This inability stems from a wide number of causes. The second major challenge is poor operation together with a lack of maintenance. There will never be appropriate technology if appropriate technology intimates technology that will withstand poor operation and little or no maintenance over a prolonged period.
6) What will be your message at Hydropower Africa this year?
Africa is now truly the world’s last growth frontier. What an opportunity! It is now the time that we should invest heavily in infrastructure of all kinds, transport, water, housing, industrial and power throughout Africa. This will require strong and honest leadership. Corruption is the single factor capable of making Africa fail in the face of its greatest opportunity.
7) What makes you return to Hydropower Africa every year?
Just staying in touch