energy technologies

On Monday, parastatal Eskom and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) entered into a five-year agreement, which aims to synergise the research capabilities of the two state-owned organisations in support of Eskom’s strategic and operational needs.

Eskom drives research investment

Eskom’s Group Chief Executive, Brian Molefe, said: “The partnership will further strengthen our collaborative relationship and, accordingly, provides a long term platform to perform scientific and operational research and evaluation tasks and provide scientific decision support towards the realisation of Eskom’s strategic and operational needs.”

The CE added: “We look forward to collaboration with the CSIR as we forge ahead with delivery on our mandate of ensuring reliable power to stimulate economic growth for our country and address socio-economic challenges faced by our people.

“We will prioritise projects that will ensure our operational and financial sustainability as we refurbish our current plant and deliver on new infrastructural projects to provide much-needed electricity.”

President of the CSIR, Sibusiso Sibisi, said that energy is one of the CSIR’s areas of focus. The CSIR’s vision in this area is to help the country achieve an energy-secure and low-carbon national economy.

“Together Eskom and the CSIR can come up with innovative solutions for current and future energy issues, determine what the new electricity system will look like and what the plans and responses should be that need to be put in place to build the future South African energy system,” said Sibisi.

Tackling short term goals

According to Eskom, in order to address its short term requirements, it has identified three imperatives to identify new and existing technologies and capabilities that can address specific challenges.

The first imperative relates to the availability and reliability of the existing asset base.

“The organisations will work together on extending the transmission component’s lifespan through predictive maintenance; real-time grid monitoring using the Advanced Fire Information System;  laser-based refurbishment of high-value components; development of a joining technology and non-destructive testing centre to improve build and maintenance quality; analytical testing to ensure environmental compliance; and robotics and unmanned air vehicles for maintenance,” the utility explained.

The second imperative is aimed at safely delivering on the new build programme and capacity management.

“Research and development will focus on the reduction of water consumption; development of advanced emission control technologies; development of components for use in advanced high-temperature gas reactors and modelling of associated technologies; load forecasting; and smart energy management systems.”

The third imperative focuses on financial sustainability.

“Aspects to be jointly investigated include security risk management solutions to prevent theft and safeguard high-value assets; cable and infrastructure theft detection and prevention; smart meter protection; and detection and prevention of illegal connections and revenue theft,” the parastatal explained.

Setting long term objectives

In the long term, the utility is faced with a prosumer environment and an increase in renewable plant development.

The partnership between the utility and the CSIR will thus include the intention to collaborate strategically on flexibility requirements in the future power system; implications of higher penetration of (fluctuating) renewables; establishing new build capabilities and capacity; integrated foresight studies and energy scenario planning; establishment of a joint centre of Advanced Manufacturing and Repair technologies; a National Centre of Expertise for non-destructive testing and evaluation; skills development and job creation, Eskom said in a statement.

Eskom and the CSIR have therefore jointly approved the elevation of the current partnership to a strategic partnership that can support both strategic decision-making and assist with operational issues so as to address both the short and long-term challenges of Eskom and the country’s electricity system.

In order to administrate the agreement, a bilateral committee is in place made up of CSIR and Eskom executives that meet to discuss potential projects that will further be considered by delegated steering groups.

The partnership will enable the CSIR and Eskom to garner more value from the relationship that is also increasingly being promoted by the principal stakeholders of the two organisations, the Department of Science & Technology and the Department of Public Enterprises.