3 July 2012 – While activity appears slow or subdued, market players are preparing for some significant changes in the technological and contractual landscape of high voltage transformers in South Africa. The high voltage transformer market is soon to see the return of ABB as a key player, while the major current tender holders include Powertech, Siemens, Contipower, ABB and Zest WEG. The dominance of existing suppliers is likely to be challenged at the forthcoming tender adjudication in 2015.

African mega trends, such as urbanisation, regional integration and future infrastructure have been identified by Frost & Sullivan as the key developments to impact on transmission and distribution, and more specifically, the high voltage transformer market for southern Africa.
The South African transformer market is by far the largest outlet for high voltage transmission and distribution equipment on the African continent, with the country producing effectively half of the continent’s centralised power.

Eskom and local municipalities currently dominate the market, with collective control of about 90% of the total value of high voltage transformers demanded. Transmission, distribution and reticulation are the combined responsibility of Eskom and municipalities. Large step-up transformers facilitate the transportation of large volumes of electricity over long distances by escalating voltages up to a maximum of 765 kilovolts (kV) in South Africa. Electricity is then transported at these voltages over long distances, and filters down through step-down transformers at substations to lower voltage levels such as 132 kV, 33 kV and 11 kV into the distribution system. At each point of voltage alteration, the process of power transformation can be accomplished with varying levels of efficiency. The power lost as a result of this process is referred to as load losses.

Electrical efficiency is high on Eskom’s agenda which has prompted the adoption of high efficiency transformers. Minimisation of load losses is a top priority moving forward, and is expected to impact the market shares of major manufacturers.  

The Transmission Development Plan is a good indicator of the equipment volumes to be installed. Due to uncertainties in the market, the exact dates may shift marginally, but Eskom planning officials seem confident of the volumes for the first five to six years.