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Women dominate 2017 African Utility Week Industry Awards

Women are making an invaluable contribution to the power and water industries as reflected by the many ladies amongst the winners of the 2017 African Utility Week Industry Awards that were announced at the CTICC in Cape Town last week. Three of the awards, namely Lifetime Achievement, Outstanding Contribution to Power as well as Young Energy Leader Award, were won by women.

More than 750 top level power and water professionals attended the fourth edition of the African Utility Week Industry Awards gala dinner on Wednesday evening, 17 May, which honour pioneering utilities, projects and people in the energy and water industry on the continent.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela’s personal assistant, Zelda la Grange, delivered an inspiring guest keynote address with charming anecdotes of working with and for the legendary anti-apartheid activist and politician.

The complete list of winners of the African Utility Week Industry Awards:

Lifetime achievement award:
Helen Tarnoy, Co-Founder & Managing Director, Aldwych International Ltd, United Kingdom, an engineering company that has been involved in some of the most successful independent power projects on the African continent.

“I first went to Africa in 1998 and I have never left; so I have almost 20 years of working in the independent power sector in Africa,” Helen said in a pre-recorded video acceptance speech. “I won’t say that it wasn’t a struggle in the beginning, it was. There was a lot of education to be done about how private companies could contribute to the economies of the countries in which they were working by providing sustainable power at an affordable price. That is still what we aim to do today. The difference today is that we are seeing more and more people coming into the market.”

Helen has been a passionate devotee to the African power market since her first contact with it in the mid-1990s. Her first major success was to lead the recovery and eventual success of the Songas Gas to Power Project in Tanzania. Following on the success of the Songas Project, Helen actively participated in all phases of several other AES successes in Africa including the acquisition and successful construction of the Ebute Power Project in Lagos, the privatisation and early operation of the Kelvin Power Plant in Johannesburg and the acquisition of a majority position in the Sonel vertically integrated utility in Cameroon.

Outstanding contribution award: Water
Philip Gichuki, Managing Director, Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company, Kenya

“It is a great honour to win this award,” said an overjoyed Eng. Gichuki on Wednesday evening. He continued: “this is meant for my staff. It is this dedicated team that has made this happen. I look forward to continue to work with them every day in order to make a difference in people’s lives.”

As the Managing Director of Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company, Eng. Gichuki is responsible for running all facets of the business. He has a proven executive management track record and over 20 years of experience in managing growth in the water and sanitation sector. Most notable in his management of the company is the innovative inclusion of low income (informal) settlement communities as partners (customers). In 2016, the company participated in the planting of over 150,000 trees in catchment areas to help deal with climate change. Eng. Gichuki has been instrumental in guiding the sector to develop county specific implementation plans.

Outstanding Woman of the Year in Power/Water
Rose Kaggwa, Director: Business and Scientific Services, National Water and Sewerage Corporation, Uganda

“Women must aim to be the best they can be, because at the end of the day, the best multi-tasker is a woman,” Rose Kaggwa said after receiving her award, adding “in order for us to create change, when we say ‘water for all’ and we say ‘sanitation is a right’ it cannot be done without women. So women must rise up and begin to speak.”

Rose has spearheaded the development and implementation of vocational training and skills development of plumbers and Electromechanical technicians within the NWSC which has benefited over 500 staff and contributed to the operational efficiency of the organisation. Rose is the first African to sit on the UNESCO – International Hydrological Progamme Advisory Board for human settlement, water and sanitation and holds the position of Vice President. In 2017 she was awarded the Golden Jubilee Award for excellence in leadership in service delivery by His Excellency the President of Uganda, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. Rose is very active in the International Water Association and was at the helm of the International Water Chief Executive Organization forum held in June 2016 that brought together 14 CEOs from various water utilities in Africa and 56 key stakeholders to deliberate on the strategic priorities of the water sector in Africa and efforts to strengthen collaboration.

Power Utility of the Year

Ethiopian Electric Power, Ethiopia

Mr Abeb Kahsay, Executive Officer of EEP received this very prestigious award for the company: “It is an honour to be here and hold this award. It is a sign of the success of what we have achieved so far. It will strengthen us for the future to work even harder to serve our people so that we can address the problems of the community.” 

Ethiopia strives to be the hub of renewably sourced energy in the region and beyond. Ethiopian Electric Power is instrumental to this ambitious plan. EEP is a sole provider of bulk electricity to users, mainly to the Ethiopian Electric Utility; direct industrial customers; and exports to neighbouring countries. Djibouti and the Sudan are connected to Ethiopia by a high-voltage power line.

EEP operates and maintains more than 12 hydropower and three wind power plants distributed in different parts of the country with installed capacity of more than 4290MW, including the Gibe III plant (1870MW). There are two major hydropower projects under construction, namely the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (6000MW) and GenaleDawa 3 (254MW).

Water Utility of the Year
Lilongwe Water Board, Malawi

“We have made a lot of improvements and innovations in the last couple of years and this has made a difference in how we deliver our service in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi,” said a very pleased Alfonso Chikuni , CEO of Lilongwe Water Board, on Wednesday evening. “This award is for all the employees of Lilongwe Water Board who really took to the new institutional direction and approach that we had to take before we could produce results.”

The Lilongwe Water Board is a statutory organisation that supplies water to the residents of Lilongwe, the capital City of Malawi and its surrounding areas. Currently, Lilongwe City has a population of about 1,000,000 and the company serves around 70% of the population. There are about 65,000 metered customers and more than 700 water Kiosks (communal water selling points) within the City. The total pipe network for LWB is estimated at 1,600 Km.

Successes in 2016/17 include the significant strides it has made in the reduction of Non-Revenue Water from around 41% in January 2016 to 26% by December 2016 thereby offering a cheaper water source in a way and by increasing capacity to deliver services by initiation and completion of infrastructure projects.

Large Scale Renewable Energy Project (10MW+)
Bokpoort CSP Power Plant, ACWA Power, ACWA POWER, South Africa

Nandu D Bhula is the CEO of the power plant: “this is the second time we have won an award here, the first time we won for Community Project of the Year, now we are recognised for being the best Large Scale Renewable Energy Project. With CSP being a renewable project with some storage makes it a reliable load following operator, so it gives the best of both worlds which is fantastic. For Bokpoort it is just amazing to be the pioneer of, what I think, a revolution in the solar industry.”

ACCIONA, SENER and TSK built Concentrated Solar Power plant in South Africa set a new African record for the continuous, round the clock supply of electricity. Within the first month of commercial operation, the newly-inaugurated 50 MW Bokpoort CSP plant, produced electricity for a continuous period of 161 hours, equivalent to almost six days.

Bokpoort CSP’s 50MW is equal to powering 21 000 households and has over 8 600 collectors at the plant with more than 136 000 mirrors. At its construction peak, over 1 300 jobs were created at the plant, filled largely by the local community previously dependent on farm work.

Small-Scale Sustainable Energy Project (under 5MW)
Stortemelk Hydro, Renewable Energy Holdings, South Africa

“It is a great honour for us to be recognised amongst all our peers across the continent. There are not many small scale projects such as ours around in South Africa so we sometimes feel a little bit on our own. We do our best to try and keep the standard high so for me and my team this is great encouragement that we are going in the right direction” – this is according to Anton-Louis Olivier, MD of Stortemelk Hydro.

Stortemelk Hydro RF is located in Clarens in the Free State, South Africa and has a capacity of 4.5MW. The Stortemelk Hydro will result in a reduction of 540 000 tons of CO2 emissions over its 20 year life span and was constructed on an existing dam.

The Hydro is the first to use a vertical Kaplan turbine and air cooled indoor transformers in hydro power in South Africa. The highly integrated and compact design reduces operational risk and maintenance costs. The project was constructed on time and on budget with 98% availability in the first 6 months.

Technology of the Year
Solar Turtle, South Africa

“What is really unique about Solar Turtle are the safety features for women working in high crime rate areas such as informal settlements, rural communities or war-torn countries of the world. That is what we are really hoping to achieve. Not just making examples for the next generation of women to follow, but doing it safely.” So said James van der Walt, CEO of Solar Turtle, who accepted the award at the gala dinner on Wednesday night.

The SolarTurtle is an ultra-secure solar powered MU in a box. Shipping containers are converted into small, mobile solar power stations. These SolarTurtles are designed for off-grid schools where conventional solar PV solutions will not work. In crime-ridden areas across Africa traditional solar PV solutions have failed. The solar panels are typically stolen within a few months of deployment. The problem is so severe that the Gauteng provincial government was prepared to dismiss solar power as a possible electricity solution for schools and community centres.

The SolarTurtle is a solar kiosk designed for unparalleled security and maximum portability. These container-based solar kiosks are assembled off site then deployed by simply offloading the container and unfolding the panels towards the sun. In the morning when it is safe the panels are unfolded from their secure location to feed from the rays of the sun. In the evening when it is unsafe the panels are folded away into the hard shell of the container. The power from the SolarTurtle feeds the school and a small woman-owned solar kiosk business inside the container.

Deal of the Year
100MW Kathu Solar Park Project, Engie, South Africa

“This is really a great achievement by a large, multi-disciplinary team and we are very proud of this award,” said a delighted Maarten van der Horst, Director and Chief Business Development for power and gas investments at ENGIE Africa, after receiving the award. He continued: ”we are also very grateful and proud of the engagement we received from the local community and from the national government. At the moment the construction is very much underway, the financial close took place in May 2016 and the construction is on track within the timelines and COD is anticipated at the end of 2018. We are making every effort to deliver and stick to that timeline.” 

In July 2016 a consortium led by French multinational electric utility company Engie achieved financial close on the 100MW Kathu Solar Park project in the Northern Cape province of South Africa. Developed by the consortium, the park is sponsored by the SIOC Community Development Trust, Lereko Metier, Public Investment Corporation, Investec Bank, and the Kathu Local Community Trust. Lenders on the project are Rand Merchant Bank, Nedbank Capital, ABSA Capital, Investec, and the Development Bank of Southern Africa.

Once in operation, Kathu Solar Park will have the capacity to supply 80,000 households across South Africa and will help reduce carbon emissions by 300,000t every year. The solar project is expected to be connected to the grid by the end of 2018, supplying clean and dispatchable electricity to the South African power utility Eskom under a 20-year power purchase agreement.

Outstanding Contribution Award: Power
Charlotte Aubin-Kalaidjian, Founding Partner, GreenWish Partners, France, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire & Nigeria

Charlotte thanked the award audience via video message: “We all have a duty to respond to Africa’s pressing energy deficit. Renewable energy together with innovative business models are at the core of the solution. By giving me this award you are proving that I was right in the path that I chose eight years ago. I am grateful for your trust, especially as a woman entrepreneur.”

Charlotte Aubin-Kalaidjian is founder and CEO of GreenWish Partners, the independent power producer dedicated to renewable energies in Sub-Saharan Africa. In the past 12 months, GreenWish led the development, structuring and financing of the Senergy 2 solar PV plant, the first solar Independent Power Producer in West Africa. Charlotte’s commitment to the sustainable development of Africa is also demonstrated by her involvement and board positions in the R20 NGO dedicated to climate change actions, the Women in Africa Initiative, as well as sponsor and Jury Member of the Energy Generation Academy out of Lomé, Togo. She also acts as business angel and mentor with a focus on social and environmental entrepreneurs as well as young artists. She has initiated an ambitious Photo Project “Solar Magic” with Initiative for Global Development to illustrate the potential of solar on Africa society, economy and environment.

Young Energy Leader
Fatima Oyiza Ademoh, Founder & CEO, Ajima Youth Empowerment Foundation, Nigeria

Fatima also spoke in a video message after she was announced the winner: “I want to thank all those who have believed in my quest to extend electricity access to off-grid communities, especially in the Waste-2-Watt (W2W) Project. And for all the young people out there, let’s keep being the agents for change in our communities.”

Fatima Ademoh is an energy and finance specialist and currently serves as the Project Developer in the United States African Development Foundation (USADF) funded off-grid Renewable Energy project being implemented by Ajima Farms in Nigeria. In this capacity, she led the preparation of funding proposal that secured US$150,000 grant in the USADF Power Africa Off-Grid Energy Challenge.

Industry support
More than 170 entries were received for the African Utility Week Industry Awards. Huawei, the well-known global information and telecommunication giant, was the lead sponsor this year while other supporting partners were Aberdare, Eaton, Enel, ESI Africa, KPMG, Lucy Electric, SBS Tanks, Standard Bank, Steinmüller Africa.

Leading water and energy platform
African Utility Week is organised by Spintelligent, a multi-award-winning exhibition and conference producer across the continent in the infrastructure, real estate, energy, mining, agriculture and education sectors. Other well-known events by Spintelligent include Agritech Expo Tanzania, CBM-TEC, Kenya Mining Forum, Future Energy East Africa (formerly EAPIC), Future Energy Nigeria (formerly WAPIC), Future Energy Central Africa (formerly iPAD Cameroon), iPAD Nigeria Mining Forum, DRC Mining Week and EduWeek. Spintelligent is part of the UK-based Clarion Events Group.

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Babalwa Bungane
Babalwa Bungane is the content producer for ESI Africa - Clarion Events Africa. Babalwa has been writing for the publication for over five years. She also contributes to sister publications; Smart Energy International and Power Engineering International. Babalwa is a social media enthusiast.