On Thursday, South Africa’s power utility, Eskom, Group Chief Executive Brian Molefe, said that with the correct skill-set and knowledge, the engineering fraternity will use smart grids to re-energise an aging system to stimulate growth and socio-economic development for the consumer of the future.

Addressing a group of engineers at a conference this week, Molefe said: “Research and development and conferences of this nature are critical to address our specific needs to build local skills and capability to take us forward as a nation and a continent.”

According to the CE, this research can tackle some critical issues including:

  • Energy affordability, including lowering the costs of emerging technologies and energy-efficient technology solutions to reduce household energy bills
  • Decentralised electrification solutions to reach rural areas more efficiently
  • The reduction of the environmental impact of energy resource extraction, infrastructure development, and operations
  • Smart technologies so that we can leapfrog current energy infrastructure requirements and constraints
  • New generation options that facilitate the optimal use of local energy resources
  • Storage technologies that facilitate the introduction of intermittent supply technologies, such as wind and solar, but that also improve overall power supply certainty
  • Efficient transmission infrastructure to enable the evacuation of power to load centres across the continent and to encourage new investment

Strengthening the network

[quote]According to a company statement, the utility claims that smart grids open up a myriad of opportunities for the country to create improved and better managed networks.

Currently, the power company has invested in projects such as phasor management units (PMUs) for wide-area monitoring in transmission, online condition monitoring of transformers, visibility of section breakers in rural networks, and advanced metering infrastructure.

“In the space of advance metering, we recently kick-started a smart metering project for our direct residential customers, called the SMS Project, that is seeing the conversion of meters to smart prepaid meters in the Soweto, Midrand, and Sandton areas,” the utility said in a statement.

Adding that: “Research is also being conducted into Internet protocol-based telecommunication technologies for the protection of power lines. Recent partnerships have been agreed with French and Japanese development funders that will enable Eskom to gain first-hand knowledge and experience in various areas, including smart grids, as the programmes include skills transfer, training, and development for Eskom engineers.”