Exclusive interview with Damian Padachi, MD of Itron South Africa, a long standing partner of and gold sponsor at African Utility Week and Clean Power Africa
What Itron projects are you currently most excited about?
Itron is involved in a large-scale smart meter contract in South Africa calling for the installation of world-class, cutting-edge technology throughout Johannesburg for City Power. The smart meter solution will empower City Power’s customers to better manage their electricity use and save money on power bills in a country where energy costs are on the rise. It will help the city reach its energy-efficiency goals. Itron, Edison Power Group and City Power have been working hand-in-hand to complete this crucial project that will benefit the city for decades to come.
On the gas side, a project is underway to deploy more than 2,000 gas meters and an online prepayment vending system for an alternative energy provider. Although much of South Africa’s focus has historically been on prepaid electricity technologies, this project will enable residents of Waterfall Country Estate, an environmentally friendly residential development in Johannesburg, to also use these technologies in gas installations. In addition to installing the system, Itron has trained the utilities employees at EnviroFuel to manage the vending network.
In other smaller municipalities, Itron’s revenue assurance approach has produced significant financial and operational benefits, which in turn has led to improved controls within the municipality. Furthermore, other significant systems include the deployment of a prepayment system in Zimbabwe, and ongoing work with customers in Angola, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique, among others.
What makes Itron competitive in this market?
Itron is a world-leading technology and services company dedicated to the resourceful use of energy and water. We have decades of experience in delivering utility solutions that combine measurement and communication technology, as well as software and services to help our customers better manage energy and water. Our smart metering systems empower customers to control their electricity usage, save energy, and reduce their utility bills. In addition, our smart metering systems support utilities’ strategies to improve service delivery and efficiency through automation. We understand the challenges utilities face and we have the talent and technology to address them.
What do you see as the major challenges in the utility sphere?
Infrastructure, including power generation and distribution, is lacking across the region. Combine this with large numbers of the population migrating to cities, and you have an issue of both growing infrastructure requirements in some areas and increased usage demands in others.
Water, too, is scarce in many places, requiring an increased emphasis on conservation, in many cases beginning with the measurement of water supply to ensure that the water distributed equals water delivered. In addition, energy theft is a challenge in Africa. It causes significant losses in revenue to utilities and contributes to overloaded networks.
The skills needed to address these issues and bring water and energy to all Africans while helping manage these resources wisely can be difficult to find. Utilities and municipalities often have strategies in place to expand power and water services — they know where they need to be and how to get there — but they may lack the capacity and the access to trained, skilled workers required to reach their goals. African utilities need flexible solutions and long-term partnerships in order to deliver the right solutions based on their unique regional needs.
What is your vision for the energy industry?
Taking the industry into the future with a new mindset based on the next generation of technology. At Itron, we believe the way the world manages energy and water will shape this century. We live in a world that has a growing demand for water and energy and a limited supply of these resources. In order to ensure sustainability for the future and to be in a position to pass on these resources to the next generation.
What are you most looking forward to at African Utility Week and what will be your specific message at the event?
Itron’s vast experience, knowledge, expertise and comprehensive suite of solutions ranging from smart metering solutions, prepayment solutions, advanced data collection solutions, load management and loss management applications are on display at African Utility Week. Feel free to visit the Itron stand to find out more. At Itron we build solutions that help utilities around the world measure, manage and analyze energy and water. Our broad product and services portfolio provide the tools utilities need to responsibly and efficiently manage our precious resources.