City has rolled out over 20,000 smart metersThabo Mahlatsi

Interview with Thabo Mahlatsi, the acting unit head: Climate Change and Air Quality at the City of Joburg Municipality. He is also a panellist during the conference track for large power users at the upcoming African Utility Week.

1. Tell us more about your organisation and your activities in the utility industry?

TM The City of Joburg is a municipality that provides various services (electricity, water, sanitation, housing, roads, etc.) to residences within its area of jurisdiction in terms of the mandate enshrined in the Constitution of the country, Schedule 4 and 5, Part B thereof.

2. Any specific project updates/success stories that you can share?

TM We have rolled over 20,000 smart meters in the City, created various amenities and greened the environment. With the smart meters, we will be able to control load, demand, consumption and provide residence with energy even during these trying times of load-shedding. The basics of load control through smart meters is to be able to switch off high consumption equipment i.e. stoves, swimming pools pumps, geysers and leave the soft loads, i.e. entertainment (TV, radio) and lights. There are however challenges that the City is facing with the installed meters which are being resolved in order to reach the desired state.

3. What in your view are the main challenges currently to the energy industry in Africa?

TM The challenges can be summed up into three: lack of skills, exorbitant prices of capital equipment and bureaucratic practices.

4. What is your vision for this industry?

TM The future is bright, in particular  hydropower generation starting from pico (using streams, large water pipes, waste water treatment plants) to large stations (creating dams and exporting from countries such as Lesotho, Mozambique and the Congo). Continuing research on renewable sources of energy promises to be the Holy Grail we are seeking, in particular the ability to store power using battery systems.

5. You are part of the conference programme at this year’s African Utility Week in May, what will be your message?

TM I envision the future that is characterised by extensive practical research on alternative use of renewable energy sources and the conventional utility power used as a backup rather than the main source of energy provision. The future transition from high to low energy tariffs that will catapult development of most national economies to unprecedented heights.

6. What are you most looking forward to at African Utility Week?

TM To paraphrase the famous scientist Albert Einstein’s message: “the mind-set that created the current world (energy) problems should not be the same mind-set to resolve them”.

7. Anything you would like to add?

TM Desperate times as we are facing in this country (high levels of load shedding) requires us not to despair but to wear our thinking hats, and come up with resolute decisions, that will move the nation out of this quagmire of near loss of hope.

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