Kaizen, the Sino-Japanese word for improvement, should be applied more rigorously and more effectively throughout the energy industry, states Tobias Hobbach, MD of Cape Town-based SustainPower and advisory board member of Enlit Africa, who often turns to doctrines from his earlier career in the automotive industry.
The article appeared in ESI Africa Issue 1-2021.
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Another doctrine Hobbach uses from other sectors is on access to finance for the application of products. What he is referring to are readily available asset finance tools, which are common in the automotive sector. “The energy market could see diesel generators on lease or rented and financed on every corner. This can work well for solar systems where there is still not a standard solution.”
He adds: “Hence our initiative to offer long-term leasing but also short-term construction finance for our containerised solar systems. They remain movable assets. So we’re taking the complexity out of this business model and offering these added values.”
Priceless moments that keep Hobbach energised are the positive experiences where people benefit from electrification: “Those are just the most heart-warming moments. When a project comes together as a result of fantastic teamwork between different parties, different companies, NGOs, government agencies, and in the end, a village is electrified, and schools have electric power for the first time ever.”
During 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic was a productive period for the company: “We had the impression that some companies used the time of lockdown to look into engineering solutions that had probably not seen quite as much attention previously. So we ended up being fairly busy.”
In particular, SustainPower has been involved in a number of health clinic initiatives that were launched by various funding partners. “We have, for example, just deployed seven containerised power systems to clinics in Lesotho together with a minigrid developer. We are also involved in an emergency hospital electrification project.”
As an Enlit Africa advisory board member, Hobbach has been a regular visitor and follower of the rebranded conference for many years. “I hope that the new format of the Enlit event will be as fruitful as the traditional formats we have all been used to.
“While many of us will miss the social interaction and the direct personal touch of the event [in 2021], the new format will give access to an even wider range of topics, people and companies to exchange ideas and thoughts with.”
He sees policies and legislation as the biggest hurdles in the sector from a macro perspective. In some of the sectors the lack of privatisation is a deterrent. At a project and execution level, the challenges are often related to funding, finance or the availability of finance solutions, but also execution.
He explains: “Executing and delivering an electrification project in the Congo or Nigeria or in remote areas of Southern African countries are complex. These projects are complicated. By applying Kaizen principles to our solutions we overcome the challenges by offering turnkey applications that are ideally designed for full remote locations.” ESI
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