Engagement between the power line industry, State power utility Eskom and government is necessary to develop a strong and sustainable power line industry that is capable of servicing the electricity transmission requirements of the country as well as protecting jobs in the industry, says Power Line Association of South Africa (Polasa) chairperson Gary Whalley.
Polasa is an affiliate of the Southern African Institute of Steel Construction (Saisc).
Whalley says the transmission line industry in South Africa is at a critical point in its evolution. “The industry is in crisis, having suffered significant job losses in the past few years, with up to 5 000 jobs shed in the last year,” he says.
He adds that the power line industry supports Eskom’s power transmission plans in the short and medium term, as well as the development goals of the New Partnership for Africa's Development.
“In short, we need to find a way of meeting the challenges of providing the necessary infrastructure for things such as a reliable transmission grid, increased transmission capacity and expansion of the grid in support of extending electricity to all citizens.”
The economic development imperatives in South Africa demand a robust and expanded transmission line grid to enable the effective transport of electricity from the point of generation to distribution, says Whalley.
“It is imperative that the power line industry, in collaboration with its key customer, Eskom, and government, find effective ways to avoid job losses while developing a strong and sustainable industry.”
Polasa is in the processes of conducting joint workshops with Eskom to open debate on issues affecting the industry, and it is hoped that the successful exploration and implementation of the many options that are being tabled succeed in changing the power line industry for the better, says Whalley.
Polasa was launched in August 2013. The purpose of the association is to promote the development and growth of its members, which will, in turn, provide utilities like Eskom, as well as municipalities, with a pool of local contractors and suppliers that can service utilities’ needs for new lines and line refurbishment.
“The association’s vision encompasses all participants in the building and maintenance of transmission and distribution lines as well as the full range of supporting products and services up to and including transformer stations,” says Whalley.
He adds that the association aims to add value in terms of engineering issues that are applicable to the power line industry in close cooperation with the Saisc.
“The aim is to maintain a credible association with a participating membership to ensure a vibrant and sustainable industry,” he concludes.