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New regulations needed to unlock the potential of smart grids

June 30, 2018 • Finance, Top Stories

Abraham Ortega, Senior Executive Consultant at Hexing.

Abraham Ortega, Senior Executive Consultant at Hexing.

Africa is in dire need of a solution that will jumpstart electrification on the continent, according to Abraham Ortega, Senior Executive Consultant at Hexing.

“The digital technology already being utilised in Africa in the form of smart metering systems, is the key to accomplishing this. However, utilities on the continent have only scratched the surface of these systems’ capabilities.”

With an estimated 600 million people living without access to electricity, sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest electrification rate in the world. This has had not only a significant negative impact on economic growth in the region, but also on the potential to attract foreign investment.

Infrastructure has always been a major challenge in Africa, and research by the World Bank posits that the continent currently requires an estimated $100 billion in infrastructure investment order to close this gap.  Additionally, a survey by Grow Africa among companies already invested in Africa, has shown that dissatisfaction with the quality of physical infrastructure, including stable electricity supply, was one of the most prominent challenges hampering further investment in other areas of the continent’s economy.

By now it should be clear that the projects over the last 40 years to bring big scale electrification to the continent have largely failed to lead to a sustained growth in this sector, says Ortega.

“Most regions, even those with some of the highest rates of electrification, are currently saddled with massive challenges, including aging infrastructure, theft, inconsistent supply and a dependence on high-cost means of generation such as diesel. As a result, the continent’s energy sector is struggling to generate enough revenue to fund further expansions or offer investors a viable return on equity.”

“With meter-to-cash solutions (smart meters) being rolled out in many African countries, utilities and their private sector partners have been able to improve the accuracy of their billing and tracking of electricity consumption.

Speaking from Hexing’s own experience, clients significantly reduce their losses and nearly double their revenue collection to fund further expansion and stabilisation of their grids. What these utilities need now, is to integrate meter-to-cash into intelligent operation and maintenance management systems (IOMMS) capable of overcoming existing infrastructural challenges, interpreting information from the field and immediately taking the right course of action to compensate and manage losses, with minimal human involvement,” Ortega concludes.

Edited by Neo Sesinye
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