I was privileged to be given the opportunity to interview a number of high profile industry leaders at the recent African Utility Week 2014 which was held at the International Convention Centre in Cape Town, South Africa .
The conference is in its 14th year and it continues to attract numerous exhibitors , as well as industry experts and leaders.
The conference kicked off with the theme “Vision for a sustainable African utility sector” which took precedence throughout most workshops and discussions and many of our interviewees were keen to discuss how African utilities can achieve a high level of sustainability.
We managed to pre-arrange a significant number of exclusive interviews with leading industry experts at our onsite studio. Our studio attracted quite a bit of attention which resulted in additional interviews ! Obviously we were thrilled by this interest and we managed to fit everyone in . It turned out to be a bumper two days as experts were keen to share their thoughts on Africa’s energy development.
The number of vendors seem to grow each year and representatives were obviously keen to discuss exciting product and service updates that will benefit Africa’s energy development. It is clear that Africa is a land of opportunity when it comes to developing the energy sector since grid access is extremely low. Added to this, is the continent’s significant clean energy potential. As one of our interviewees, Michelle Davies, Partner and Head of Clean Energy and Sustainability at Eversheds, points out, “Companies and investors can no longer afford to sit back on the sideline and not be active in what they see as a massive growth market.”
While it is true that Africa does offer great opportunities (evident by the number of vendors the conference attracts), one interview in particular got me thinking. It was with Viven Perumal, Marketing Manager for Conlog. [Engerati:Africa Needs to be Smarter with its Smart Meter Investments].It caught my attention because it was one of the few interviews that echoed a more measured approach to energy spending.
Basically, Mr Perumal’s view is that utilities should spend their money more wisely since a number of products, which may be appropriate for the overseas market, may not be suitable for the African market.
While our discussion revolved around the topic of smart meters, it occurred to me that utilities could be falling into the trap of buying equipment that they won’t need. For instance, using a Smartphone to only make phone calls.
Of course, utilities need to take responsibility for their choice in investments but I do believe that vendors need to carry some of this responsibility too. The energy industry is saturated with products and options can confuse the utility. This can be very expensive for the utility and it creates a level of distrust.
It is therefore critical that utilities and vendors communicate product features before money changes hands.
Africa on Track
Most of the interviewees enjoyed the conference and are excited by the significant potential that Africa has to offer. While the interview subjects varied between speakers, there seemed to be a general consensus: While challenges remain, Africa’s energy development is on track.
The video interviews have already been loaded onto the site and we will be publishing articles that will expand on the various subjects discussed and debated at the conference.
If you attended the conference, we would love to hear from you. Feel free to join our Engerati Smart Energy Community to network, share and collaborate.