HomeRegional NewsAfricaEd's note: Finding an end to the electricity supply industry's prolonged Sunday

Ed’s note: Finding an end to the electricity supply industry’s prolonged Sunday

Disruption of the electricity market in 2020 came in various guises, with the most prevalent being the COVID-19 pandemic where global utilities faced a supply and demand death spiral.

In its Global Energy Review for 2020, the International Energy Agency referred to this slowing down of electricity usage through lockdowns resembling “a prolonged Sunday” due to reductions in services and industry.

That is an appropriate analogy, but there are other factors causing stress to the electricity supply market.

The rise of independent and distributed energy resources on the grid due to an advancing green-movement reduces demand from traditional outlets, while end-users having a greater awareness of energy efficiency practices and implementing them to reduce their electricity usage.

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Viewed by end-users as supply and carbon management options, these factors were lurking in the wings and, in my opinion, given impetus during national lockdowns to emerge.

My views are not unsupported. The New Energy Consumer report, issued by Accenture in Q4 last year states that 60% of consumers have become more aware of climate change and its environmental impact since the COVID-19 outbreak. At the same time, 50% are likely to invest more in energy efficiency today than before the pandemic.

What does this mean for the utility industry, and can a blanket analysis be drawn for all regions? 

Given climate change being a global challenge where one region can affect another, the analysis is universal; however, the solutions must take local resources, socio-economic and policy into account.

For instance, while the lockdown-induced suppression of demand in South Africa has gradually subsided, the underlying problems of capacity and energy shortage, as well as the reliance on coal remain.

Regardless, the message to all power generation companies and electricity providers from the IEA is that they have no choice but to adapt; take action to outlive the disrupted demand for traditional electricity sales.

These actions could include offering value pools such as energy efficiency, energy management, distributed generation, storage, eMobility and demand-side flexibility. According to Accenture, these are rapidly maturing service markets.

However, one element that will remain steadfast for electricity supply companies is the meter. However, the STS Association warns of a threat to this valuable tool within the utility’s box of revenue resources.

Don Taylor, the STS Association director, explains that as with any data type, there is a point when meter tokens will reach their maximum value. Any tokens generated after 24 November 2024 will be rejected by the meters as old tokens.

As distributed energy and energy efficiency threaten utilities’ revenue, it will be unwise to ignore this additional risk, which is within utilities’ sphere of influence. 

The best course of action is to implement a Token Identifier rollover plan. In view of this, the STS Association is on a mission to ensure you have all the information needed to undertake this project and invites you to a live discussion on 11 March 2021 at 06h00 GMT.

Taylor and two guest speakers will share much-needed information and update you on progress from users who have already started their projects.

Together, the industry can learn, grow and remain steadfast.

Until next week.

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Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl
As the Editor of ESI Africa, my passion is on sustainability and placing African countries on the international stage. I take a keen interest in the trends shaping the power & water utility market along with the projects and local innovations making headline news. Watch my short weekly video on our YouTube channel ESIAfricaTV and speak with me on what has your attention.