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Women in Energy: She moved her cheese to tackle electrical losses

Meet Kagiso Roseline Kgowe, an ECSA Candidate Engineer who is on a continuous professional development path in the engineering market.

Being an active part of the engineering community plays a fundamental role in developing and harnessing engineering as an asset in any organisation. This ethos has motivated Kagiso to take up the position of Deputy Chairperson of the Southern Africa Revenue Protection Association (SARPA) Western Cape, Good Hope Branch in South Africa and to become a mentor to young women who aspire to a fulfilling career in this sector.

This article first appeared in ESI Africa Edition 2, 2019. You can read the magazine’s articles here or subscribe here to receive a print copy.

Kagiso, before we talk about your career please share with us which books have shaped your professional thinking – and how?

That is an easy question for me to answer because the one book that has stood out for me is definitely Who moved my cheese? by Spencer Johnson. This book brought the realisation that it’s easy to get trapped in a comfort zone believing that you will have enough resources and time at your disposal; when in reality it is a dangerous mind-set to be in.

The book inspired me to always push myself a bit further and always be in search of greater and better ‘cheese’, not just in my career as an electrical and electronic engineer and a manager but in my personal life as well. This book motivated me to look outside of the usual box of strategies to ensure efficient and effective service delivery. It has further motivated me to enter the maze of the engineering industry and not limit myself to the office environment.

I’ve now expanded my network and am also an ECSA Pr.Eng Candidate, as well as taking up the position of Deputy Chairperson of the Southern Africa Revenue Protection Association (SARPA) Western Cape, Good Hope Branch, South Africa.

That is an exciting path to venture along. Let’s unpack your background in the cable theft and infrastructure damage sector and current position at Drakenstein Municipality.

It is my natural-born passion and love for the engineering disciplines that have guided my career. As such, my background in the cable theft and infrastructure damage sector started in 2016 at a technology company, Ntamo Technologies, where I was the Manager: Engineering Operations responsible for the production, installation, commissioning, and ensuring of the effectiveness of the service level agreement we had with our clients.

It was this position that afforded me the opportunity to learn about the various proactive solutions to combating cable theft and infrastructure damage, which are long-standing threats in the utility and municipal environments. Learning about the various advanced technology systems and working with a client base including Eskom, Transnet, and eThekwini and Drakenstein municipalities put me in a unique position to fully grasp the depth of this challenge and the available solutions.

These technological solutions include distribution transformer and low voltage universal alarms, GSM pepper system alarm, pepper gas cubicle alarm, broken neutral safety device, off-site remote monitoring surveillance cameras, early warning underground cable theft alarm, overhead conductor theft alarm, and 24-hour control room operations.

In this role, I began to fully understand how serious the issue of cable theft and infrastructure damage is: a R20 billion annual problem in South Africa alone. In my current position as Manager: Electrical Engineering Efficiency Management at Drakenstein Municipality, I head two sub-divisions. The first is for Loss Management where we are concerned with the direct mitigation of cable theft and the second is for Specialised Support where various areas for technical and non-technical losses are mitigated. The knowledge and skills acquired in my time at Ntamo Technologies stands me in good stead as it allows me to successfully mitigate technical and non-technical losses within my current position.

That is an impressive start to your career. Tell us about an interesting project you are working on or have recently completed.

The municipality has run various on-site pilot projects with Ntamo Technologies for over a year now. Their technology has been successfully deployed at our crime hot spots to mitigate cable theft and nontechnical losses. The products, which we are currently piloting, make use of the distribution transformer alarm system, low voltage universal alarm system, broken neutral safety device and the overhead conductor. I am proud to report that since deploying the pilot projects, no theft has occurred and the problem has been mitigated. Below are pictures of some of our on-site pilot projects.

Who were your mentors and how did they inspire you? What is the importance of having mentors?

I’ve been fortunate to have had a number of mentors guiding my career including Ntamo Technologies’ chief executive officer, Quentin Louw (Pr Tech. Eng, SMSAIEE, MIEEE), who shared his fundamental skills and knowledge with me regarding how to pro-actively mitigate cable theft, infrastructure damage and non–technical losses.

Other mentors from the Drakenstein Municipality to whom I’m also grateful to include Williem Albertyn, the former Senior Manager: Electro-Technical Services, Leon Laing, the Manager: Planning and Customer Services; Electro-Technical Services; and Marius van Rensburg, the Senior Engineer for Electro-Technical Services.

Having access to mentors during your higher education and all through your career path is important for the following reasons:

  • It broadens your network
  • Reduces isolation
  • Increases self-confidence
  • Grows self-awareness
  • Clarifies career direction
  • Progresses career goals
  • Develops skills and institutional knowledge
  • Helps in avoiding making mistakes
  • Provides guidance on unfamiliar areas

How do you go about overcoming challenges in the work environment?

Depending on the nature of the challenge I’ve found it best to first seek clarity and guidance from peers and senior colleagues who have sound knowledge on the subject. From there I will apply my mind accordingly to what is expected of me as a manager and more importantly as a public servant.

Should gender matter for women in energy? Are we asking the right questions and what energy sector changes are needed so that the issue of gender becomes irrelevant?

Gender shouldn’t matter. What should matter is the quality and ethnicity of the work taking place. It should be about progressing and taking the industry forward. We have a responsibility to deliver a service and we should endeavour to work together to develop sustainable plans to persevere and ensure energy efficiency for the nation and future generations. As professionals, we should possess good emotional intelligence not based on gender or any other factor.

There is much talk about the 3Ds: decarbonisation, digitalisation and decentralisation. What is your take on these trending themes and how strongly is it guiding power and energy policy?

I firmly believe that the initiatives transpiring from the 3Ds are there to make life not just easier, streamlined but also to save and sustain our natural resources. The 3Ds, as they become entrenched in our lives, will also allow us to be active members of the global village. The scope is to also become a progressive society in the preservation of our natural resources and sharing of information with other countries.

Kagiso, what are your top predictions (or wish list) for the energy market in the next five years?

In South Africa, I foresee an energy mix that includes biogas power plants, an increase in hydropower plants (which will be developed in tandem with securing our bulk water supply systems) and more wind-powered plants connecting to the grid. Personally, I’d like to see the development of a thriving industry around gas home water-heating systems and solar-powered public transportation.

Women in Energy feature brought to you by Nyamezela.

Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl
Nicolette is the Editor of ESI Africa print journal, ESI-Africa.com and the annual African Power & Energy Elites. She is passionate about placing African countries on the international stage and is driven by the motto "The only way to predict the future is to create it". Join her in creating a sustainable future through articles and multimedia content.