The Department of Energy (DoE) has introduced its Advanced Distribution Approach Methodology (Adam), a new model for electricity distribution in South Africa, which aims to supply power to all houses without electricity by 2025.
“We know we cannot continue with the electrification of 200 000 to 220 000 households a year, as this covers only the number of households built each year, owing to natural growth, and, hence, does not effectively reduce the electrification backlog,” DoE deputy director-general of energy for programmes and projects Dr Wolsey Barnard tells Engineering News.
Having reviewed the electrification programme for the last few years and by apply- ing the lessons learnt during previous programmes, the DoE has completed a new electrification roadmap for South Africa.
Barnard says the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), Limpopo rural areas and the many informal settlements surrounding South Africa’s major cities need electrification the most.
“Not to say that the other provinces do not need electricity, but those three provinces comprise 55% of the electrification backlog in the country,” he notes.
According to the census results released by Statistics South Africa last year, 85% of South Africa is electrified; however, only 77% of the country is formally connected to the grid.
“The difference can be accounted for by illegal connections and backyard flats and apartments being connected to the electricity supply of the main house.
“These people are electricity users, but they are not customers,” he says,
Meanwhile, of the 12.8-million households that are electrified in South Africa, about 52 000, mostly in rural areas, are being supplied by basic photovoltaic (PV) solar power, highlights Barnard.
“This number makes us one of the countries with the largest number of homes being electrified by PV solar power in the world through the private sector.
“From the models we ran, we identified that between 250 000 and 300 000 house- holds can be supplied more economically with renewable energy as part of the new electrification roadmap,” he says.
He adds that the DoE has started negotiations with Eskom and certain municipalities to electrify certain areas using PV solar power until they can be supplied by the grid.
“We are greatly focused on the model for renewable energy and are looking for the technology that can best deliver the highest level of solar energy to houses that still require electrification,” adds Barnard.
Currently, about 210 000 households a year are being connected to the grid and another 10 000 a year are supplied with renewable energy.
“So we are not doing badly, but, overall, we are not reaching the target we should be since we are not effectively eradicating the backlogs,” he reiterates.
In 1994, only 37% of the country was electrified, compared with the current 85%, which is one of the biggest improvements in services in the country, says Barnard.
“Most of our projects for the 2011/12 financial year are continuing because they involve infrastructure construction and are mostly in Limpopo, KZN and the Eastern Cape,” he says.
A total of 160 000 households have currently been electrified for this financial period and projections show that 223 000 connections should be made once all the projects have been completed.
“Our target for the 2011/12 financial year was 210 000 connections, ,” notes Barnard.
He explains that the DoE has refined the Adam model over the last 18 months and aims to deal with the skills shortage, limited managerial capacity and lack of maintenance, refurbishment and infrastructure upgrades faced by the distribution sector.
“There is a skills shortage, which impacts on most businesses in the country, but there are also managerial problems in most of our municipalities, especially in terms of how procurement is managed.
“Even if we suddenly raised all the money needed to operate and refurbish the distribution industry, there wouldn’t be enough skills or managerial capacity to ensure sustainable implementation of such a programme,” he states.
Barnard adds that government has been trying to deal with the challenges facing the distribution industry for years, but with little success.
“There is a lack of maintenance, a lack of refurbishment and a lack of upgrades in existing infrastructure. It is not always evident that electricity infrastructure needs to be replaced or maintained, unlike infrastructure used in other sectors where damage is more evident.
“The infrastructure needs to be checked and tested every few months, which is not being done now owing to a lack of skilled manpower and not enough funds being allocated,” he explains.
This leads to municipalities allocating larger budgets from electricity tariffs to other departments – thus, there is a lack of funds for electricity infrastructure development and maintenance, notes Barnard.
This is further compounded by the growing demand for access to electricity in South Africa.
However, the Adam process is not something that can be completed in one year and is an undertaking of at least ten years.
“It will take time and skills, but we are confident that it will succeed,” adds Barnard.
The DoE is working closely with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), the Development Bank of Southern Africa, the South African Local Government Association and the National Energy Regulator of South Africa to implement the Adam principles.
However, he points out that the model is a holistic approach and, therefore, requires collaboration among all spheres of government, Eskom, investment institutions and industry.
Barnard adds that a national unit, which falls under Cogta – the Municipal Infrastructure Support Association – has been established to assist muni- cipalities with infrastructure, which is supporting Cogta with its turnaround strategy.
The DoE is rolling out a ‘mini Adam’ – a pilot project that is assisting nine municipalities in testing some specific aspects of the Adam process .
“Through this initiative, we will gain the knowledge and experience needed to implement the model throughout South Africa,” he says.