By Wesley Govender, PQ Product Application Expert at Schneider Electric

Electricity is the only mission-critical commodity that business depends on every second of every day, yet it can be the biggest obstacle to success.

According to Reuters, a recent survey by S&P Global Market Intelligence showed the South African private sector economic activity contracted for a third consecutive month in May 2023 as rolling power cuts and inflationary pressures continued to weigh on business.

In a country plagued with a volatile grid, the quality of power has become paramount in ensuring that businesses mitigate any losses or interruption in operations. More than ever, power quality audits should be at the top of organisations’ operational investment agendas.

The ability to correctly identify technical deficiencies and detect potential failure risks within a facility’s electrical system is crucial. For one, it provides organisations with a clear view of the health status of their electrical systems and, importantly, puts it in a stronger position to face new challenges, such as sustainability and energy efficiency.

Furthermore, electrical failure can also be life-threatening; for electro-intensive operations power loss has more than just financial implications.

However, discovering power quality deficiencies can be an overwhelming task which is why organisations should partner with companies that offer expert auditing services and importantly recommended mitigating steps that improve their overall power quality posture.

The power quality audit

A power quality audit focuses on the condition of the electricity that is flowing through the building’s electrical distribution system as it gets used. The audit measures how modern-day devices such as computers, LED lighting, high-efficiency variable frequency drives (VSD), and control motors are impacting the performance of the power distribution system.

A state-of-the-art, non-intrusive on-site audit assesses an electrical installation. It builds a single-line diagram of devices to quickly identify potential weak points that may put systems at risk. This helps uncover potential vulnerability hazards and recommend improvements for performance and safety.

In the case of Schneider Electric’s EcoConsult Audit for Power Quality, we bring together our expert consultants and organisational operations team to identify critical areas that would benefit from sensors and remote monitoring to improve service continuity and energy monitoring.

“Taking the pulse” of the power system is essential to understand how best to move forward. Experts with specific software provide a comprehensive modernisation plan which include: 10-year maintenance, monitoring, and management plans, including spare parts and technical documentation management.

Careful management of a business’ power system – along with up-to-date technical documentation (in the form of single line diagrams and existing power system studies) and regular staff training – will ensure it is well-equipped for most potential incidence.

As debrief session also form a critical part of the power audit process and highlight to all stakeholders’ system observations, risks, and recommended next steps. It also provides comprehensive reports that relay vital, actionable insights and standardised deliverables across locations and segments to ensure multi-site or country consistency and formative maintenance plans with ongoing monitoring and management strategies.

Importantly, the auditing team will also have the requisite teams and equipment in place to implement immediate interventions to improve power quality.

Schneider Electric’s experts have 15 years of experience in power system auditing and consulting and can thoroughly inspect a facility’s electrical system to assess opportunities to help improve its safety, resiliency, and operational efficiency.

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