Virtual
"I’m even willing to forecast that digital meetings and forums will remain securely within our toolbox of networking resources..." - Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl, Editor of ESI Africa. Image:123rf

After jumping off yet another virtual meeting, I took stock of how the COVID-19 crisis has changed my worldview. The pandemic has opened the ‘virtual’ door for me to have productive engagements with experts from around the world.

The article first appeared in ESI Africa Issue 4-2020.
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Even to the level of participating in virtual tours of power plants and new build sites while not adding to my personal carbon footprint. It’s been amazing!

Currently, the main drawback is the omission of those personality touchpoints during conversations. The tell-tales that direct the tone and pace of meetings are lost. However, with each Zoom, Skype, Google Meet or Microsoft Teams calendar invite I believe we are becoming better at deciphering these nuances.

Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl, Editor of ESI Africa, invites you to share a morning coffee with her on YouTube each week.

I’m even willing to forecast that digital meetings and forums will remain securely within our toolbox of networking resources after cautiously moving back to engagements in person.

In support of this, ESI Africa brings you a special feature on pages 55 to 66, unpacking the agenda of the upcoming six-week Digital Energy Festival. Hosted by three remarkably steadfast brands – (in no particular order) African Utility Week & POWERGEN Africa, Africa Energy Forum, and the Oil & Gas Council’s Africa Assembly – united under one banner.

This collaboration is a sign of our times, where stakeholders from all spheres are now cooperating on tackling the burning issues that the COVID-19 pandemic has catapulted into the limelight. These include questioning the role of DFIs, why hydropower potential remains untapped, and what oil and gas opportunities will emerge.

It is my pleasure to invite you to this tour de force of quality engagements scheduled from 20 October to 26 November. Over these six weeks, you will be treated to digital dialogues, country profiles, and fireside chats on a variety of topics to assist you in making informed business decisions.

Ahead of the festival’s Doing Business in Africa sessions, which include Nigeria, Kenya and Senegal, we took a virtual trip to Gabon (see page 16). This West African country is deploying a national-level planning process for its power sector to demonstrate the country’s readiness to test innovative approaches to key challenges.

Noting that 1,850MW will be needed to power Gabon’s industrialisation, the government is using scientific research to plan for its future energy needs. The goal is to source at least 80% of the energy from renewable sources, with a significant hydropower portfolio. The race is on to attain 8,800GWh per year in the next 30 years. I’d like to hear from those actively engaged in Gabon about how they view the country’s probability of success.

While hydro projects support the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, it is energy storage technology that will have the most transformational impact on Africa’s energy mix. In this edition’s Municipal Utilities Focus (see pages 33 to 48), Paul Vermeulen, a board member of the South African Energy Storage Association, warns on page 42 that uncertainty around where and how energy storage fits into the energy landscape hampers any sort of bulk take-up of the technology.

This uncertainty alludes to South Africa’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which is already perceived as being outdated. It’s also a topic that will be addressed during the festival in a session entitled Let’s Make Haste on South Africa’s IRP. It’s just one of the many engrossing topics that I’m looking forward to at the festival – where I’m going to seize the day!

Until the next edition and digital meet-up.
Nicolette