"Every utility needs critical infrastructure in order to offer uninterruptible services to their customers.”
Exclusive interview with Mlungisi Mkhwanazi, Director of the Africa Utilities Technology Council (AUTC), a returning industry partner of African Utility Week and POWERGEN Africa in Cape Town in May. The AUTC will also present a strategic conference co-located to the event.
Welcome back again to African Utility Week and POWERGEN Africa as a co-located event and as an association partner.
Great to be back in the buzz of utilities in Africa, looking forward to a conference that will showcase the
AUTC, as the African chapter of the Utilities Technology Council, was founded in December 2015 by a number of utilities and municipalities.
The main objective is to bring together like-minded organisations to collaborate on various platforms within the information and communications technology (ICT) applied by, the utilities themselves to enhance reliability, efficiency, and grid modernisation.
This year the AUTC has a smaller role at African Utility Week and POWERGEN Africa, including one hour on the exhibition floor and two conference speakers. Can you give us more information about what delegates can expect in May?
Our conference tracks in May will concentrate on the technology application in the energy sector, in terms of creating and maintaining critical infrastructure that is resilient and dependable. In addition to this, AUTC will also look at the benefits of keeping the ICT in-house versus having it be deployed by a communications provider. The changing playing fields in the ICT space dictates that the utilities should find cost-effective and optimal ways of rolling out their critical infrastructure programmes.
Because of its affiliation with UTC, AUTC plans on including speakers from other parts of the globe who have had experience with the challenges and opportunities of “private” or in-house ICT deployments by utilities and who can help to avoid pitfalls.
Given the focus on 5G, during its time at AUW, AUTC will also provide an overview of the recently released UTC/AUTC whitepaper entitled: “Cutting Through the Hype: 5G and Its Potential Impacts on Electric Utilities.”
Why is it important for utility, telecoms and ICT to be together at a utility event?
We have come to realise that the model that works best for any utility is to have telecoms operated in-house because of the high levels of reliable service required by utilities and given the future of the electric grid requiring a more flexible grid – a situation only enabled by communications. Telecoms can then offer carrier services to the IT department for enterprise purposes – billing, website, etc. At the same time,
Do you think that the merger of utilities, ICT and telecoms is inevitable? What is your vision?
AUTC believes that there’s enough space for the three entities to exist in a mutually exclusive environment. The ICT and telecoms entities business case
What are the main challenges in the utility sector on the continent in your view?
As alluded to in an earlier question, the rollout of renewables is changing the face of traditional energy-mix businesses. Utilities are asking how they can embrace renewables and remain sustainable with new business models and favourable revenue streams, which allow their infrastructure and systems investments to be maximised. Although the cost of renewable projects has been decreasing over the last five years, the funding remains an issue due to
What will be AUTC’s main message at African Utility Week and POWERGEN Africa?
Collaborative engagement and knowledge sharing between utilities both in Africa and globally is essential to ensure reliable electricity with integrating renewable energy. It is imperative that we learn from utilities across the world, thus cross-pollinate our experiences and avoid sink holes from a technological angle. Education becomes expensive and painful when you only learn from your mistakes.
African Utility Week and POWERGEN Africa