Access to finance hampers power sector progress

19th April 2019 By: Mamaili Mamaila - Features Writer and Social Media Specialist

Among the challenges facing the power generation sector is access to finance to upgrade and maintain power infrastructure to extend the life of existing assets in a sustainable way, especially when it comes to new digital technologies, says international power generation company General Electric (GE) steam power sub-Saharan Africa CEO Lee Dawes.

“Through the notion of ‘creating shared value’, public–private partnerships have proven to be an effective model around the world for businesses to create solutions to address socioeconomic challenges, spearhead growth and improve operations and plant performance.”

By leveraging private finance, GE has been making significant strides in assisting governments and utilities to improve the availability and reliability of their plants by building on the opportunities presented by new digital technologies, Dawes notes. With GE’s assistance, power companies around the world are leveraging big data and advanced plant knowledge to predict plant failures before they happen using industrial software platforms such as Predix and GE’s digital tools for plant analytics.

“Today we can predict when a component is likely to fail by analysing the data from digital twins of hundreds of similar components or plants around the world. We can also optimise plants to reduce emissions and other factors reducing availability, such as dust.

“Across the world digital technologies are transforming the energy sector by increasing levels of productivity, lowering operational costs and extending the life of machinery. It’s time for South Africa to join this Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

He explains that, from its digital portfolio, GE offers asset performance management solutions for power plant health and reliability, as well as asset and maintenance optimisation. Some of the modules within this portfolio include boiler optimisation and prediction and identification of tube leakages or the lifetime extension of the main components in a boiler. “This is perfect to support Eskom and South Africa through their current challenges.”

The rolling power blackouts, which carry a huge economic cost to the country, have provided a sense of urgency to focus harder on plant availability and reliability.

Meanwhile, Dawes points out that GE has invested significantly in its South African supply chain, skills training and enterprise development, having trained more than 2 000 skilled and unskilled youths, including artisans, welders, engineers, fitters and boilermakers.

“We recognise that technology transfer and skills development are key drivers to ensure long-term development of any sector, economy or country and with our digital tools we are ready to take the next step.

“GE Steam Power, a Level 1 broad-based black economic empowerment supplier, provides world class technologies and services for boilers and turbines combined with state-of-the-art digital analytics - we can partner with our customers to ensure availably, performance and efficiency of our customers plants.”