A domestic smart grid must be mapped out correctly to avoid any unnecessary and awkward setbacks, as have been experienced by some projects internationally, and requires government to partially fund the projects, says Frost & Sullivan energy and power Africa business unit leader Cornelis van der Waal.
“In South Africa, various smart grid demonstration projects have been initiated. “It is critical that any large-scale roll-out is aligned with international best practice to ensure success. “In doing so, models addressing issues such as cost, sustainability and security will help to establish the best fit for the South African system,” he says.
Five case studies of smart grid implementations in the US, Australia, Italy and South Korea highlight the importance of having a clear vision and a project plan. Experts in different fields from these nations could impart their knowledge to South Africa on financial and technical strategies and how to effectively adapt existing policies and regulations. This would give the local government and utilities the tools required to implement a successful project, he argues.
However, constraints to the process will come from the lack of skills in the country regarding smart grid technology; finance, especially given the large investment required for smart grid projects, as well as the need for government to implement policies and regulations.
“Initial costs for the deployment of smart grids are high. “It is essential that there is a drive from government to partially fund the projects so that they can be implemented.
“Government and industry also need to establish protocols and evaluate strategies according to key priorities. “Definitions and standards need to be developed for equipment, data transport and cyber security,” notes Van der Waal.
It is important to include a technology assessment, cost-benefit analysis and detailed project implementation plan in the project design. This will be crucial to ensure that the project is completed on time and within budget, he adds.
Once smart grids are implemented, consumers can be encouraged to use electricity during off-peak hours, which will result in a more stable demand curve. Advanced metering technologies will also enable an easier method of incorporating centralised power to the grid using two-way metering and sensors.
“Smart grids will give the consumer the opportunity to monitor their electricity use and control the amount of money they spend on their electricity bills each month.”