Obama-style investment in ‘smart grids’ will mean a smarter Africa


Howard Scott, MD,
Cognyst Advisors
Smart metering and smart grids guru Howard Scott will lead a “smart metering” workshop as part of the extensive pre-conference programme offered by African Utility Week on 19 May 2009.  African Utility Week, which takes place from 18-22 May at the CTICC in Cape Town has become the biggest annual forum for African and international power experts to come together and discuss strategies as well as technical improvements to the power industry.  

Says Scott, who is MD of Cognyst Advisors in New Jersey, USA, “Governments around the world have realised that one way out of the worldwide economic crisis is to invest in infrastructure.  Building new roads, water treatment plants and school buildings are all part of the normal solution.  But this year they have a new option – electric utility infrastructure.  Smart Grids!  Reducing energy costs through energy efficiency… And you can’t run a Smart Grid without first having Smart Metering!“  

What are “smart grids”?
A smart grid delivers electricity from suppliers to consumers using digital technology to save energy, reduce cost and increase reliability. Such a modernized electricity network is being promoted by many governments as a way of addressing energy independence or global warming issues. – Wikipedia

The Workshop, which takes place on Tuesday 19 May, will address a wide variety of topics relating to metering, from basic introductory material to advanced subjects on the evolution of the electric utility plant.

Obama Stimulus Package
Dr Scott is also an expert and advisor on the “Obama Stimulus Package” and has lectured widely on its benefits and challenges.  Driven by the American President Barack Obama, the US House of Representatives passed a US$819 billion economic stimulus package, with funds targeted at, among others, broadband deployment, health IT and a national electric smart grid.

The legislation also includes an $11 billion programme to enable the US Department of Energy to assist in the deployment of an Internet-based smart energy grid, which could allow homeowners to track and adjust their electricity use on the Web.

The smart grid programme would, among other things, provide grants to electric utilities for smart-grid demonstration projects.

Smart grids for Africa
Nicholas McDiarmid, editor of the leading African power industry magazine, ESI Africa, says Africa can only but benefit from smart metering and smart grids:  “Whilst Africa generally suffers from a lack in installed generation capacity, this concern now forms part a broader global picture. New technology innovations on the supply side of power distribution have meant a shift of emphasis from simply bulldozing forward with new generation projects. Smart Meters and Advanced Metering Infrastructure have facilitated a new world of sophisticated grid communications and operations which now allows for the inclusion of a diversified but integrated energy mix, which could radically change the landscape of Africa’s future electricity infrastructure”.  

Stephen Asbury, Vice President, Gemini Consulting, agrees:  “With political requirements to manage the cost of energy, reduce carbon, deal with global warming, be greener and allow local participation in the power grid, South African regulators have had no choice but to change the requirements for what is allowed on the grid.  The new REFIT tariff will have a major impact on technologies required to support these changes. Like the US, Africa as a whole could see a brighter future if legislation is coordinated to produce a modern grid across the continent. We need a Smart grid Continent!”

Part of African Utility Week is Power Indaba, a unique meeting forum for ministerial delegations, high-level power executives, policymakers and international financiers to tackle investment issues head-on, thereby encouraging and fast tracking the development of the African power sector.

For more information contact:
Conference producer:  Claire Volkwyn
Phone:  +27 (0) 21 700-3500 EXT:  3559
Email:  claire.volkwyn@spintelligent.com
Event websites:  www.african-utility-week.com ; www.powerindaba.com
For more events by Spintelligent:  www.spintelligent-events.com

For media enquiries:
Marketing Manager:  Annemarie Roodbol
Phone:  +27 (0) 21 700-3500 EXT: 3558
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Email:  annemarie.roodbol@spintelligent.com