Archives 1Archives 2Archives 3











From 14-17 March, the TAPPSA Journal joined 2300 participants from the energy sectors of 50 countries in attending the 11th annual African Utility Week, held in Cape Town. In response to Africa's need for safe, reliable energy to facilitate the continent's strong economic growth, the 2011 African Utility Week focused on "Preparing for the changing utility paradigm". Key speakers talked of looking forward to a "greener growth path", and an integrated response in the southern African power pool.

Our current energy environment

Across the globe, there is certainly room for change. One quarter of the word's CO2 emissions are created by power generation. In the United States alone, inefficiency in the form of outages and interruptions in electric power costs the country $150 billion each year - $70 billion of which could be saved in implementing better systems in the US.

The need for change is there – and so are the means, according to Guido Bartels (General Manager of Energy & Utilities Industry in IBM and Chairman of Global Smart Grid Federation). Unprecedented opportunities for the optimisation of critical processes are created through the world becoming more instrumental, interconnected and intelligent, explained Bartels. This is the utility paradigm shift: optimise our use of the Earth's natural energy resources through optimising our use of the increasing levels of computation, the 2 billion people who currently use the internet and the 1 trillion instruments that can talk to each other.

With 70% of sub-Saharan Africa's population having no access to electricity at all, our continent's participation in this instrumental, interconnected and intelligent world may not be significant. But our motivation to be involved in this utility paradigm shift is perhaps greater than all the world's put together and, as the saying goes, where there's a will, there's a way. What follows is a synopsis of what African Utility Week proposed as Africa's "will" and Africa's "way", and what impact this will have on industry.

What is Africa's motivation to shift how we view utilities?

Africa Utility Week's keynote speaker and CEO of Eskom, Brian Dames, was quick to pinpoint a few daunting facts about utility infrastructure in Africa: - Africa is roughly equivalent to the combined landmass of the United States, Brazil and Australia, yet we have the combined energy usage of one OECD country. - 33 of Africa's 48 countries have an installed capacity of less than 500MW – that's a capacity smaller than one Eskom apparatus - and still power prices are double than overseas.

Optimising our utilities would not be as urgent if Africa's population remained stable. But in the next 40 years, there will be 5.4 billion more people living in Africa – 90% of the global population increase by 2050. Dames points out that if we choose not to prepare for future utilities demand and simply continue business as usual, we will need 2.3 versions of Earth to sustain our daily lives. Sub-Saharan Africa can't even provide basic electricity to 70% of its population, never mind facilitate interplanetary travel between Earth 1 and Earth 2. We simply don't have a choice – we must prepare for the influx of future generations. Guido Bartels is certain that the world's electricity network will therefore change more in the next 20 years than it has in the last 100. "Decisions made in next 5 years will determine whether or not this transition is considered a success," he said.

Africa utility week

To view the rest of this article, become a subscriber of the TAPPSA Journal today!.

Back to Volume 2 2011 Issue