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New Absa Chair in Future Energy at Wits will host energy modelling lab

7th December 2023

By: Schalk Burger

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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Financial services firm Absa, in collaboration with the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) Business School (WBS), has sponsored the newly formed Absa Chair in Future Energy.

It will house a laboratory that will model real-time impacts to energy systems and value chains of a range of factors, such as technology disruption, climate change and changes in consumption patterns, with the aim being to understand, predict and adapt to changes in energy supply and consumption from multiple sources.

“WBS and the African Energy Leadership Centre (AELC) are committed to finding sustainable, long-term solutions to Africa’s energy crisis. This is a significant move forward in our quest to find ways, through research and data analytics, to optimise and balance energy supply and demand for the future wellbeing of our country and continent, especially given the region’s growing population,” said WBS AELC director Professor Lwazi Ngubevana.

The R6-million funding from Absa will be directed over the next three years towards research into future energy modelling, as well as access to computing resources to perform the complex modelling required.

Work has already begun on this project and the first research paper, written by Ngubevana and Wits post-doctoral fellow Dr Mgcini Tshwaku titled 'Energy Forecasting Models in developed and developing countries: A literature review', was submitted to the WIREs Energy and Environment Journal.

The benefits of the research will be a deeper understanding of the impact of technological change, regulatory lags, climate change and climate-based market intervention, and social instability on energy supply and demand. Previously, these impacts had to be modelled in isolation, which reduced the accuracy of predictions.

This investment is one of the ways in which Absa is contributing to finding solutions to some of South Africa's major challenges, said Absa Group corporate citizenship managing executive Steven Zwane.

By helping to strengthen the research capacity of the WBS, it supports the institution’s ability to enable innovation in the energy sector, which will ultimately support efforts to create jobs and grow our economy, while addressing the energy crisis, he said.

“The energy sector in South Africa and Africa is changing rapidly and has significant potential to make a meaningful contribution towards job creation and economic growth. The research through WBS will assist the private and public sectors to make the most of technological advancements in energy, which is key for the localisation of the sector to increase at pace,” said Absa Relationship Banking manufacturing, renewable energy, transport and logistics head Justin Schmidt.

“Absa looks forward to using this research, not only to create more enriched value propositions for clients, but to also advance the industry as a whole and bring further growth opportunities to the country,” he added.

The findings of the research will have application for government, agencies, researchers and the private sector to help to ensure that future energy supply is more resilient, more closely aligned to customer demand, more environmentally sensitive and more cost-effective for the consumer.

“As a business school, it is vital that we add our voice to the conversation around the energy mix in South Africa. Through the AELC, we are developing a pipeline of effective leaders who can manage the sector’s multiple challenges and now, through the Absa Chair in Future Energy, we are able to use data to help build an integrated plan for the country’s future energy mix,” said WBS director and head Professor Maurice Radebe.

The Absa Chair in Future Energy will provide numerous opportunities for post-doctoral, PhD and Master’s students at WBS to contribute to research and analysis of energy modelling.

The research outputs will be made available to other African researchers working on similar problems, WBS said in a statement.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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