“Currently in South Africa we have a water loss of around 38%, but we believe it is possible to reduce the loss by up to 20%”
Exclusive interview with Klaus Gruebl, Sensus country manager in South Africa. Sensus is a gold sponsor at this year’s African Utility Week taking place in Cape Town from 12-14 May
1.) What Sensus projects and services are you currently most excited about?
Smart water is a real focus for Sensus at the moment, helping utilities and consumers make the most of this finite resource. Today, over 2.5 million Sensus iPERL smart water meters have been installed by water utilities and property management companies around the world to monitor consumption and help control the network. We believe this is real innovation in water management and when combined with a fixed radio network to relay real-time information, instead of walk-by or drive-by, these can transform water management for the better.
2.) What makes Sensus competitive in this market?
Sensus is a global company with a heritage of over 150 years, providing utilities with innovative products, solutions and services to meet their changing needs. Therefore, we have a lot of knowledge and experience that we can bring to the South African market. Plus, we’ve had operations here for over 20 years and during that time I believe we’ve built a strong brand and reputation, as well as market share.
South Africa has versatile challenges and with our latest technologies, such as iPERL solid state water meters and FlexNet long range radio we’re able to provide solutions for not only the water industry but also for energy management. In the US, which is our biggest market for smart solutions, we have installed 16million smart meters which are automatically monitored and controlled. We can bring this knowledge and experience to the South African market.
3.) What do you see as the major challenges in the water utility sphere?
The main challenge we’re seeing is the growth of the population and the capability to serve the people with water. Water sources are limited and therefore it is important to manage these resources properly. Currently in South Africa we have a water loss of around 38%. This is a loss in revenue of some ZAR 7 billion per annum but with modern technology and a robust management system, we believe it is possible to reduce the loss by up to 20%.
4.) What is your vision for the energy (water) industry?
In the coming years we will see a change in the market, moving away from ‘dumb’ meters and towards smart endpoints. These could be electricity meters, gas meters, temperature probes, pressure sensors or water meters. Behind these smart endpoints will be highly sophisticated data management systems that will monitor and control the network in real-time. One of the drivers will be the South African energy companies. Already we’ve experienced load shedding and this is only going to increase over time. This lack of energy supply affects the economy and therefore, I’m sure that the government together with the energy companies will do everything possible to avoid an energy crisis.
5.) What opportunities do you see in South Africa/rest of Africa?
Pressure on water and energy resources is only going to increase and therefore new technologies will be key to findings a solution to this challenge. For us, it is not a question of whether smart grid solutions come to South Africa but rather how fast will they come. The market is already starting to grow and Sensus believes it’s in a position to assist the different utilities in their strategy and efforts to improve their existing networks to make them smart. South Africa has the opportunity to pave the way, other countries will follow or are already on the way, like Namibia.
6.) Which areas in Africa are you currently active in? We would love to hear some project updates/success stories/future projects.
Sensus South Africa serves Southern and Eastern Africa, whilst our colleagues in France look after West Africa. North Africa is taken care of by Sensus Morocco and Sensus Algeria.
In terms of new rollouts, in Namibia we recently started to rollout of our smart water meter, iPERL, with the corresponding communication equipment. This was following a short but very successful field trial, which highlighted the benefits of our smart technology to the customer. We have also introduced the iPERL technology to the Tanzanian market and we’re optimistic about future opportunities there, whilst in South Africa, we’re having positive discussions about smart water solutions with some of the biggest water utilities.
7.) What surprises you about this industry?
From country to country, the challenges utilities face are universal but what can be surprising is the environment in which the utilities work. The provision of clean water and electricity is challenging for utilities in South Africa, particularly as demand is only likely to increase.
8.) What will be your specific message at the event?
We’re really excited to be attending African Utility Week for the first time. The message we’re keen to convey is that energy and water needs to be managed properly but can only be done so if we face the challenges of the future head-on. We believe smart grids are the way forward and welcome the chance to discuss this with the delegates.
9.) What are you most looking forward to at African Utility Week?
I am looking forward to the exchange of information and views. Also, I’m keen to understand if there are differences in the requirements of the various utility suppliers attending, and where those differences are. It’s only by getting a greater understanding of their needs that we will be able to provide them with the best solutions.