This year’s Enlit 2023 Africa event, held at the CTICC in Cape Town had a pertinent and recurring theme, how can the continent ramp up energy efficiency to mitigate the unstable energy provision faced by many countries including South Africa?

Speaking on the panel Utilising advanced technologies to improve grid reliability, efficiency and security, Vladimir Milovanovic, Vice President, Power Systems Anglophone Africa at Schneider Electric emphasised that whilst the country is going through an energy crisis, there is also an opportunity to take a different direction, learn from the mistakes in the past and map a more sustainable and progressive way forward.

“We are looking at ways to enable utilities to find solutions to current challenges whilst addressing sustainability goals. Four pillars that enable these are operational efficiency, reliability and resilience, grid efficiency and grid flexibility,” said Milovanovic.

“Another key enabler is embracing digital technology, collecting the data from all our processes, analyse this vast amount of data using machine learning models to turn it into actionable information and look at the current and future power provision scenarios in a proactive rather than reactive manner. This will also lead to more sustainable practices whilst meeting the critical goals of C02 reduction.”

Looking closer at the technology that will assist utilities; an accurate, unified and standards-driven model, built on a secure and robust digital platform, is key. For example, all smart grid applications should align with the IEC 61850 which defines communication protocols for intelligent electronic devices at electrical substations.

Referring to the abovementioned first pillar, operational efficiency, Milovanovic noted tighter integration between the field workers and the control will offer quantifiable gains. “Field workers need visibility, whether it’s with handheld devices or constant contact with the control rooms. It has been found that improved integration between field services teams and control rooms can lead to a 60% improvement in productivity.”

“A kilowatt saved is worth a lot more than a kilowatt produced. By being efficient and saving energy we are reducing transmission losses, distribution infrastructure losses, reserve capacity and most importantly driving down C02, particularly in a country where we are still very reliant on fossil fuels for electricity generation.”

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