This year’s African Utility Week reflects a lot more involvement in terms of the value chains, says Imraan Mohamed, Marketing Manager of Itron. While there was a great deal of focus on metering this year, he says that there are many more new technology companies and service providers entering the energy value chain.
“It’s a reflection of the challenges in the industry but also movements and solutions towards energy development in Africa,” says Mr Mohamed.
Choice can be overwhelming
While it is exciting that there are so many more options to choose from with regards to technological solutions and services, many utilities may feel a bit overwhelmed and confused as to what is appropriate for their networks.
However, Mr Mohamed believes that this is where the conference proves its value. He explains: “The event serves as an opportunity for delegates to view all the options and then engage with vendors to discuss specific needs.
Presentations and workshops help utilities to understand what is on offer and what they should be focusing on.” He adds that the conference provides a perfect platform for utilities and vendors to learn from eachother and points out that more workshops and events should be set up to discuss and overcome specific issues. “More focused and regular workshops and events will alleviate a great deal of confusion.”
Outsourcing can alleviate risk
Outsourcing can certainly help utilities make the right investment choices, thereby avoiding unnecessary financial risk. Mr Mohamed points out that the level of outsourcing is dependent on the size and nature of the utility. For instance, the bigger utilities prefer to retain control and are not often keen to share details of their core business.
However, there is a fine balance of retaining control of one’s business and what is core to the bottom line and what can be outsourced, says Mr Mohamed.
Itron’s aim is to provide energy efficiency solutions for utilities and consumers around the world. The company has been able to draw on successes from their overseas customers and apply them to Africa.
Mr Mohamed points out that utilities around the world generally face similar challenges but each country and utility has its unique problems and solutions need to be adapted to these.
“Itron has been working towards overcoming some real African challenges such as debt collection, electrification, and prepayment solutions. We are in a unique position to bring the best from overseas to Africa where we are also well-established.”