To take better advantage of the increasing adoption of smart grid technology, State-owned power utility Eskom announced a partnership with global information and communication technology (ICT) company Huawei at the African Utility Week, which took place in Cape Town last month.
The Huawei-Eskom collaboration aims to accelerate digital transformation in the power industry through the development of the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud, communications and cybersecurity solutions, enabling a local smart grid to deliver efficient, reliable and affordable energy to consumers.
At the launch, Eskom distribution executive Mongezi Ntsokolo highlighted that ICT had been transforming traditional, linear, predictable and efficiency-driven businesses to ones focused on disruption and exponential growth through the adoption of digital innovations.
He pointed out that using smart grids would eliminate the use of field staff and operators to manage and maintain Eskom’s transmission and distribution networks, instead providing automatical detection, isolation and resolution of grid faults, which could, in future, allow for predictive analysis to further improve maintenance.
China’s State Grid Information & Telecommunications Group, a subsidiary of State Grid Corporation of China, president Zhengtao Wang highlighted how its adoption of ICT solutions to develop its own smart grid resulted in significant improvements to China’s grid reliability and operating costs.
With its innovations and contributions to the global energy sector, Huawei has become the first ICT solutions provider in the Global Energy Interconnection Development & Cooperation Organisation, which is dedicated to promoting the sustainable development of energy worldwide.
Eskom CIO Sean Maritz stated that South Africa was ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and noted that it was important for the country to enter into partnerships to promote innovation to ensure its effective participation.
He pointed out that the company aimed to deploy its smart grid by 2030, but warned that it might even be too late by then.
Maritz asserted that Eskom needed to create a reliable and secure electricity network that could respond to technology disruptors, such as the increasing affordability of renewable energy that was enabling consumers to generate their own electricity, and be independent of grid-based generation.
“We are not going to be in charge if we do not have the neural network in place, so the smart grid is very important for us and . . . our future . . . ” he said. A smart grid would ensure safe, reliable and energy efficient operations that would improve the experience of Eskom’s customers, while allowing for the development of new energy services.
Through the partnership, Eskom will use Huawei’s Johannesburg-based OpenLab, launched in April, to jointly develop smart-grid innovations that can be patented and sold internationally.
“Huawei is an important player in the area of smart grids and we believe that our integrated capabilities will advance innovation and the transformation of the power grid,” said Maritz.
The company will provide Eskom with access to its OpenLab facilities, which include a data centre, as well as advanced hardware and software infrastructure operated by a dedicated technical team. Eskom will contribute ideas and expertise, as well as the power grid infrastructure to conduct trials and tests.
Huawei Enterprise business group energy president Jerry Ji highlighted that the company had provided ICT solutions for more than 170 companies in more than 65 countries and it would be able to address the challenges of digital transformation facing the energy and other sectors in South Africa through its OpenLab initiative.
OpenLab will be used to quickly verify Eskom’s new smart grid ideas and create proof of concepts based on Huawei’s intelligent and connected technology, such as power line communication-IoT, or PLC-IoT, and Huawei’s proprietary enhanced long-term evolution-IoT, or eLTE-IoT, that will allow for smart metering and power distribution automation.