“Although the packaging may be new, smart grid is actually not a new concept as utilities and grid operators have been dealing with it for some time. It’s a question of the technologies that help you achieve “smartness” which keeps evolving, becoming a moving target.” This is according to Melusi Maposa, Senior Manager for utilities, Accenture, who spoke to Engerati at the recent African Utility Week.
Maposa lists four key objectives which drive the smart grid:
Ability to meter consumption
Ability to optimize the grid, distribution systems, and outage systems
Ability to effectively manage assets and capital investment into the grid
Being able to manage the work force and distribution team
While these components are not new, the means and tools we have today must be developed to keep these factors developing and working effectively, he explains.
New opportunities for consumers and utilities
Renewable energy is developing in South Africa and will eventually create a number of power producers. The country’s utility, Eskom, will have to share the grid with these new companies. While it is more cost-effective and efficient for all the power producers, with different sources and variables, to transmit electricity via one grid, an element of smartness will be needed for grid control and optimization.
The smart grid will also assist with effective energy trade between prosumers and utilities. “This is an area which should be encouraged as it will increase the uptake of renewables and self-generation. This will be a win-win situation for prosumers and utilities-prosumers can get paid for excess generated solar power and utilities receive additional power for their consumers.
“With our global experience, Accenture is in the position to assist utilities and large consumers in Africa to adapt to and prepare for various changes such as self-generation,” explains Maposa.
Provisioning of services
Maposa explains that the opportunity for utilities is around the provisioning of services and knowledge to their end-consumers. Utilities should be asking themselves the following when designing their new business model for the future:
1. How do we set up these self-generation systems?
2. How do we safely integrate them into the grid?
3. How can consumption be optimized?
“Utilities in the UK, for instance, have large service organizations which help companies optimize their energy consumption. So while utilities may face drop in energy consumption, they can now pick up additional services.
This is where smart grid enables this process.”
“Energy development in Africa is a major challenge and could be faster. However, the continent is large and each country (and its issues) is unique. Access to energy is a basic human right–everyone should have access to a safe, affordable and reliable supply of energy. While access figures are extremely low, development is on the right track. There is certainly awareness and Africa is moving in the right direction.”