Event seeks sustainability for Africa’s electricity supply industry

13th July 2018 By: Tasneem Bulbulia - Creamer Media Reporter

Event seeks sustainability for Africa’s electricity supply industry

INDUSTRY EVENT POWER-GEN & DistribuTECH Africa presents a one-stop shop for the electricity supply industry under one roof
Photo by: Bloomberg

This year’s POWER-GEN & DistribuTECH Africa (PGDA) event will focus on all areas of the electricity supply industry, in line with the goal to take a holistic approach and engender sustainability across the industry, PGDA consistent advisory board chairperson Dr Willie De Beer tells Engineering News.

The PGDA 2018 will be held at the Sandton Convention Centre, in Johannesburg, from July 17 to 19.

“The continent is in different stages of development, with some areas dependent on fossil fuel generation, whereas others are complementing their generation capacity with renewable-energy sources for power generation.”

He notes that the organisers are cognisant of the electricity supply industry currently being under “severe pressure” from what the majority of those in the electricity supply industry consider as ‘disruptive forces’ such as renewable energy and advanced technology deployment. “Depending on how you view renewable-energy options, it can either complement and grow your business or have adverse effects on your sales and business growth.”

In light of this, the aim is to foster business sustainability for companies operating in the electricity supply industry, by providing a platform for discussions and solutions to enable those in industry to capitalise on the opportunities, such as renewable energy and advanced technologies available, rather than being constrained by them.

The event will also provide opportunities for utility owners to interact with suppliers of generation equipment, alternative power-generation solutions as well as transmission and distribution equipment.

De Beer says that generating power is futile if it cannot be effectively transferred to where it is needed. Therefore, the event provides exposure to those involved in power transmission and distribution activities in the exhibition area, and to the latest business and technology trends in transmission and distribution in the conference tracks.

PGDA will also focus on the aspect of retail for the electricity supply industry. De Beer indicates that there is vertical integration of electrical supply in some countries in Africa, where utilities are responsible for the full spectrum – from power generation and transmission/distribution to retail – whereas other countries have moved towards “unbundling” of these activities. The event will cater to both scenarios.

“Nigeria and Namibia are two examples of countries on the continent that are putting efforts into unbundling.”

Moreover, De Beer highlights an important focus of the event is tracking the trends of technology deployment, as “it is becoming very clear that one cannot operate this industry in a sustainable manner if there is no grid visibility over the plant/equipment, systems, clients and related activities”.

He indicates that a major challenge faced by the industry in Africa is revenue management, inclusive of debt collection, which affects suppliers and customers. He notes that this is particularly pervasive in South Africa, where municipalities owe State-owned power utility Eskom about R13-billion and electricity users, in turn, owe municipalities about R137-billion. Other countries on the continent are affected by this as well, in varying degrees.

“What is universal is a challenge in terms of effectively managing revenue streams, and we try to address this. What we have learned over the years of hosting the event is that it is not enough to merely focus on technical engineering-related issues in the industry while neglecting issues related to business governance, leadership, systems, compliance and financial sustainability.”

Event Benefits

By participating in the PGDA, those in the electricity supply industry can learn and share with other role-players, and draw value through the conference tracks and exhibition to improve the bottom line of their businesses, De Beer avers.

There will be practical information from exhibitors, as well as information and insights from the conference tracks that the event will host – the event has an exhibition floor, supported by conference tracks, which provide presentations detailing the theoretical and practical applications of business and power solutions.

“We’ve really applied our minds to ensure that presenters at the conference tracks are well versed in their fields; they will deal with matters that are relevant and can make a difference in the day-to-day running of businesses,” he points out.

De Beer says there is global consensus that a solid electricity supply industry will support countries in their economic growth.