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This past week, the African energy, power and water sectors were put in the spotlight as debate flowed freely at the annual African Utility Week and POWERGEN Africa conference in Cape Town.

Originally published in the ESI Africa weekly newsletter on 2019/05/22 – subscribe today

Many experts and stakeholders made their voices heard, but two individuals stood out for me. The first is Professor Anton Eberhard from the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business who spoke candidly about the country’s power utility, stating that “Eskom is broke” and that no amount of “government bailout will save the utility”.

Eberhard made it clear that “Independent Power Producers are not the cause of Eskom’s financial difficulties. They don’t take away sales from Eskom!” He further requested the audience to not underestimate the impact of State Capture on the utility’s woes. 

It is no wonder that such an outspoken expert on reform and regulation has been appointed to the Global Commission to End Energy Poverty. This new initiative aims to accelerate access to electricity to under-serviced homes and businesses quickly and cost-effectively.

Notably, the Commission is comprised of investors, multilateral development banks, academics and leaders of utilities and off-grid firms. I trust the professor will remain vocal on South Africa’s energy market while he traverses the global energy access market.

The second person who made an impression was Dr Ric Amansure, community operations manager at Umoya and a finalist in the Outstanding Contribution to Power Award at the Industry Awards. According to Dr Amansure, “Well intentioned IPP investment in communities is not enough; it must have real impact and long after the end of the project lifespan.”

He explained that, even though developers are engaging with local communities, much is “lost in translation”. For instance, the community sees the wind farm construction and assumes that they will be provided with electricity. However, in reality the power is sold to the municipality.  

This is an issue that can be addressed by educating communities and communicating the information in a way that is easily understood in terms of local customs and linguistics.

Be sure to visit our YouTube channel for many more interviews with industry experts.

I’d love to hear from you about the industry experts that stood out for you at last week’s African Utility Week and why.

Until next week.