energy
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It’s been a whirlwind two days attending the 26th AMEU Technical Convention hosted by the City of Tshwane in South Africa under the burgeoning theme of ‘The impact of the energy revolution on power utilities in Africa’.

Originally published in the ESI Africa weekly newsletter on 2018/10/10 – subscribe today

During the keynote address on Monday, Dr Zweli Mkhize, the minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs, delivered a powerful message that was reiterated throughout the day: the ESI business as usual is under strain and it is within this disruptive environment that municipalities now find themselves adrift.

The energy sector is the engine of economic growth and development. However, as Mkhize noted, even implementing enabling policies lacks clarity on constitutional and legislative mandates. This is far from encouraging news, especially for municipalities that are actively seeking to address the impact of distributed energy through a cohesive and integrated approach.

It was the host city’s councillor for utility services, Darryl Moss, who shared how – in the face of adversity – there are steps that can be taken to deliver profound results. The city, among other projects, has put waste-to-power high on its agenda.

Yes, the industry is faced with long-standing challenges in the form of cable theft, maintenance backlogs, and high technical and non-technical losses; however, these cannot and should not be a reason to ignore embedded generation or any other fourth industrial revolution trend lest these market forces deliver a coup de grâce.

It is the rising cost of electricity that is motivating the prosumer movement and distributed energy but for municipalities there still remains a large customer base to service. This raised the topic of billing and an apt quote from the Helen Suzman Foundation: Incorrect billing continues to negatively affect the integrity of local authorities.

As the dawn of the new municipal business model tentatively peeks on the horizon, managerial and technical staff must be cognisant of how the energy revolution will change their load and customer profile. Will unbundling tariffs and allowing prosumer energy trading and municipal wheeling deliver a new cash cow?

Naturally, the draft update of the IRP, once promulgated, will project a measure of stability to the market – or will it? To discuss more on this, join our panel of experts in a live one-hour free-to-attend webinar on 25 October. Register here.

The AMEU convention is still underway as I write this. So far, the conference sessions and conversations with delegates has led me to believe that the impact – although worrisome in terms of how to manage the implications – has only fostered opportunities that will strengthen municipalities’ role in driving the desired economic stimulus of the country.

Here’s to reimagining the future and rethinking the rules that govern the ESI value chain.

Author: Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl, editor of ESI Africa

Read the previous Ed's Note: Resourcefulness governing the utility landscape’s identity