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Exclusive interview with Dudley Miller, vice-president energy business unit, Schneider Electric South Africa – who are gold sponsors again at African Utility Week.

Dudley Miller

What are you most excited about in terms of Schneider Electric’s products and solutions?
Being part of a global specialist in energy management exposes us to a wealth of expertise, which has been accumulated through solutions using Schneider Electric products and technology, and developed for various users.

We are particularly excited by the release of Premset, our smart grid ready MV switchgear with a completely modular design to facilitate easy installation, upgrading and maintenance.

What is on the calendar for Schneider Electric in 2013?
Reliance on electrical energy is growing globally and forcing countries to re-look at- and evolve the ways in which electricity is produced, distributed and used. Invariably, future solutions will involve not only smarter demand but also smarter supply.

To meet these challenges, electrical distribution networks need to be enhanced with intelligence that brings a new level of efficiency through advanced monitoring and control, which is precisely what Premset architecture is designed to do.

Features include feeder automation where the switchgear includes built-in communication and local intelligence, load management with integrated smart metering and asset management with advanced switchgear and transformer monitoring.

Intelligent electronic devices used in Premset solutions enable easy integration based on a standard communications protocol with a plug-and-play scanning system for easy configuration. The result is a flexible system with integrated Web technology, pre-engineered and pre-tested, which can be easily upgraded as necessary. The architecture makes building a smarter MV distribution system much easier.

To extend protection to the entire switchgear installation, the Shielded Solid Insulation System (2SIS) is robust but has a flexible and modular design so that its functional blocks can be used in any combination. Premset switchgear is the first global product using solid and shielded insulation. It is applicable to all network functions, including load-break switches or circuit breakers, integrated metering units, and current and voltage transformers.

There is continuous innovation within our range of products, making them genuine pace-setting solutions. Again, Premset is such an example. The product’s revolutionary compact vacuum switch with 2SIS is for instance totally encapsulated so that the panel can be opened in complete safety. The design of Premset ensures that it is also suitable for harsh mining and coastal environments.

Viewed as a technology breakthrough, Premset offers unprecedented safety, efficiency and ease of use. Insulation and screening of all live parts ensure trouble-free service life with the peace of mind that comes from SF6-free technology.

What opportunities do you see in Africa?
The demand for electrical energy in many African countries is growing rapidly, requiring both supply and demand solutions. Schneider Electric, as a global energy management specialist, has the know-how and expertise to provide these solutions, anywhere in Africa.

What do you think makes Schneider Electric competitive in this market?
Schneider Electric is a global player with 130,000 employees operating in more than 100 countries. We therefore have a wide global reach that is backed by extensive experience in supplying energy management solutions across a broad spread of markets.

What do you think are the biggest challenges to the SA / Africa energy market?

Generation capacity and the capacity to deliver energy to the users.  African countries will be and are increasing their investments in both generation and distribution in order to satisfy a growing demand. In South Africa we have ageing distribution networks that require renewal to ensure users get both reliability and quality of their energy supplies. Municipal electrical undertakings will be challenged by this enormous task and need to be adequately funded in order to meet the increasing expectations of today’s energy consumers.

What surprises you about this industry?
The steeply rising costs of energy and the profound effect on our economy. I believe that our behaviour with regards to energy usage will be shaped by these incremental costs and we as an industry will have a vastly expanded role to play in keeping our industries competitive and (some) lights on at home!

Why does Schneider Electric keep returning to African Utility Week?
It offers Schneider Electric the capacity to showcase our technology and solutions capabilities to a wide range of African utilities – all in one venue.

What will be your main message to African Utility Week delegates and visitors?
Simply that Schneider Electric’s global energy management expertise is available to them and that we can help them make their electrical distribution networks energy efficient and future proof.