Exclusive interview with Dean Villet: Itron’s Director of Professional Services. Closing comments are from Imraan Mohamed: Itron Sub-Saharan Africa Marketing Manager. Itron is a long-time supporter of African Utility Week and a gold sponsor at the upcoming event.
What are you most excited about currently in terms of Itron’s products and solutions?
There are a number of exciting initiatives currently on the go in Itron. I am very excited about the excellent work we are doing with City Power, which will bring about the first major Smart metering rollout in Africa. In parallel we are piloting an exciting new approach to revenue assurance in the Sol Plaatje municipality, using communicating prepayment meters and advanced data analytics to curb energy losses, and improve network management. I am also very excited about the solutions we are rolling out to our ‘private utility’ customers such as golf estates and property managers, bundling both electricity and water metering solutions to offer a one stop meter to cash service.
What is on the calendar for Itron for 2013?
Our flagship project is obviously the City Power smart metering project, but we are also working on a number of other exciting projects and technologies. We have just gone live with a significant prepayment system solution for ZETDC in Zimbabwe, and are further building out solutions for customers in South Africa, Angola, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique.
What opportunities do you see in Africa?
Simply put, there are massive opportunities in Africa. If you couple the generation constraints with the low penetration of electrification, the market growth potential for smart payment and smart metering solutions are really significant. Leveraging on the wealth of natural and human resources we have here in Africa, the potential for large scale infrastructure improvement is very exciting.
What do you think makes Itron competitive in this market?
Itron has a long history of success in the African market. We have a strong presence across the region, and we have an in-depth understanding of our customers and their requirements. Itron also has the meters, the software, the processes, the innovation, the partnerships and most importantly, the best people, and all of these facets make Itron a force to be reckoned with in the African market.
What do you think are the biggest challenges to the South African/African energy market?
In my assessment, the two biggest challenges facing the local energy market are the lack of generating capacity almost across the region (supply side constraints), and also the lack of available skills in the energy industry. Many of the utilities and municipalities have excellent strategic plans in place, but lack the requisite skills and capacity to execute these plans effectively.
What surprises you about this industry?
One thing I am surprised about is that more utilities and munics have not realised the importance of planning, staffing and implementing a comprehensive revenue assurance program. There are some notable exceptions, but by and large, revenue assurance is left to a small group of people doing random meter inspections, with little corporate support and visibility. The impact of energy theft on overloading of electrical equipment, higher peak loads and energy usage, and of course lost revenue is so significant that revenue assurance programs should be top of mind for every CEO and CFO in the industry.
Why does Itron keep returning to African Utility Week?
AUW is a fantastic opportunity to network with colleagues, customer and friends, while at the same time giving us the opportunity to keep current with industry and technology trends.
What will be the main message that Itron has for the African Utility Week delegate and visitor?
As stated by Itron’s sub Saharan Africa marketing manager, Imraan Mohamed: Delegates and customers can experience Itron’s integrated suite of product and service solutions, from smart metering, two-way prepayment metering, business intelligence, supervision solutions, advanced data collection solutions, to loss and load management applications. They can expect to receive the latest information on smart technology, and experience how data can be transformed into information, empowering utilities with critical knowledge that enables the efficient management of resources.