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Amid the 2020 global socio-economic upheaval, steady movement can be seen in the power and energy markets, where utilities have embraced technology.

Originally published in the ESI Africa weekly newsletter on 03/06/2020

Perhaps the decisive way in which countries responded to the COVID-19 pandemic has given impetus to industries examining better operating models and acting on applying solutions.

These actions can be as simple as amending the number of staff per shift, while relocating staff to operate from service centres closers to their place of residence. A knock-on benefit is reduced carbon emissions from transportation. Simple solutions that we’ve put off implementing till now.

A motivating example is how Uganda’s utility, Umeme, has responded to braving the crisis. The utility accounts for over 97% of electricity supply in the country with a staff complement of around 1,600.

In a message from the utility’s managing director, Selestino Babungi, the company prioritised preventive inspections and maintenance on distribution lines and substations supplying healthcare facilities. In addition, pre-paid meters to these facilities were replenished with credit to ensure continuity of supply without disconnection.

According to Babungi, pre-lockdown investment in the distribution grid has significantly contributed to its stability and reliability. He also stressed that going forward the plan is to invest a further $80 million in substations, line works, and expansion of distribution zones in this year alone.

The utility also aims to convert the remaining 150,000 post-paid customers to pre-paid metering.   

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Smart metering

The key message here for utilities is that investments in technology will enable the continuation of services to customers regardless of unforeseen exacerbating conditions.

With a host of technology and applications available on the market, the challenge is only in selecting and investing in the ones that best suits your profile and objectives.

Ultimately the goal is to supply everyone in your area and to do so in a cost-reflective manner. As Babungi stated: “Our operations would have been significantly derailed during the lockdown period if we had not embraced technology over the years.”

What human resource and digital solutions do you intend embracing to upgrade contact centres, remote network management, and smart payment options?

Until next week.