Amid challenges, power sector offers massive opportunities

17th March 2017 By: Nadine James - Creamer Media Writer

Amid challenges, power sector offers massive opportunities

MOMENT IN THE SUN Africa’s largest power and electricity event offers innovative, cost-effective means of tackling Africa’s power challenges

Although the power and electricity sector in Africa faces massive challenges, it also offers massive opportunities, says Power & Electricity World Africa (PEWA) event organiser Terrapinn.

“Africa needs in excess of $800-billion to develop its power infrastructure. Despite these challenges, there is a lot that is also going right,” Terrapinn’s energy and resource GM Samukelo Madlabane says.

He cites examples of the oversubscribed Power Africa initiative, the East African Community infrastructure development initiative and Ethiopia’s grand renaissance dam project, which has a hydropower component and could potentially add 6 000 MW in installed capacity.

Project manager for the PEWA, Madlabane says the event is Africa’s largest and longest- running power and electricity exhibition and conference . Now in its twentieth year, it will be held at the Sandton Convention Centre on March 28 and 29.

He explains that PEWA will look at innovative, cost-effective ways to tackle Africa’s power and water challenges. The PEWA show features The Solar Show Africa and The Energy Efficiency Africa Show. It is also colocated with The Water Show Africa – a pan-African water show targeting water utilities, municipalities, water boards and government Ministries from across Africa.

According to Terrapinn, indications are that attendance will increase significantly, as the number of preregistered visitors is 75% higher, compared with the same time last year. Sponsorship has also doubled since last year. These sponsors include industrial technology provider ABB as the title sponsor, international solar company CSDR, Japanese energy company Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems, American power generation company MTU, Chinese solar company Trina Solar, risk management company DNVGL and others.

Madlabane adds that African participation in the event has also increased, with more than 40 African countries taking part, compared with the 33 last year. The PEWA has also attracted an increased number of attendees from Francophone African countries.

The event’s growth can partially be attributed to a “world-class” conference agenda, he says, lauding the PEWA advisory board for spending countless hours assisting the organising company in decisions regarding the conference content – which is based on international and Africa-specific industry trends – and the pertinence of conference speakers, sessions and programmes.

“Our exclusive partnerships with African power pools, as well as the Association of Power Utilities of Africa, has given us exclusive insights pertaining to the developments and needs of Africa’s energy sector, ensuring that the PEWA can adequately address and inform attendees.

“There is a general trend to move towards distributed generation and small-scale projects instead of megaprojects and our conference is going to help the sector move towards this,” Madlabane comments, adding that this concept is ultimately more financially feasible and results in more sustainable energy supply.

Conference Features
Madlabane says the conference’s Country Spotlights programme, which highlights developments within the energy sector of a particular African country, is quite popular. “To ensure that we are covering countries that have projects with a lot of potential, but which were previously overlooked, my team and I spent the past year going to various African countries, meeting with utility and independent power producer executives, as well as senior government officials,” he says.

Further, Madlabane and his team attended several African power pool annual general meetings (AGMs), as well as the African Water Association AGM and the African Ministers Council on Water AGM.

They also attended several other industry events on the continent, including the African Development Bank (AfDB) AGM, during which the AfDB president, Akinwumi Adesina, launched the High-Fives application, a tool for tracking progress on the bank’s development priorities, which include achieving universal access to electricity in Africa in the next deacde.

“We have gained . . . valuable insights into challenges, projects and opportunities. We received on-the-ground raw intelligence – some of which we made available to the market leading up to the conference. We have also built and managed key relationships across the continent,” says Madlabane.

During these trips, speakers for this year’s event were also secured: “We ask them . . . to speak about projects in the pipeline in their respective countries; how much investment is needed; how much has been committed, if any; and who is involved . . .

“This year, we are introducing a Women in Energy Summit . . . to embrace the drive to make the power sector more inclusive of women.”

One of the other main features is the African Boardroom, which will be held on March 27, enabling sponsors to engage with industry decision-makers. “The inaugural African Boardroom programme last year was a great success, as sponsors met with senior decision-makers from various utilities and government and independent power producers who are generally difficult to reach,” Madlabane explains.

Additionally, Terrapinn, which works with innovation hubs and energy commissions across the continent, has identified innovators who could potentially commercialise a technology that could enable more access to electricity. During the Power & Electricity World Africa event, some of these innovators are awarded R300 000 in seed capital.

Madlabane concludes that, as part of its twentieth anniversary celebration, the PEWA organisers will use some of its resources to pay for flights and accommodation for attendees who could not get their organisations to sponsor them.