At the recent African Utility Week, Metering & Smart Energy International had the pleasure of speaking with a number of key utility and sector leaders. Below is a short taste of what they shared with us.
Having spent three days at the event in Cape Town interviewing African utilities, technology suppliers and regulators in our studio, we asked the question: Is Africa the next frontier for smart meters? The answer ranges from nearly to definitely.
It states the obvious to say Africa is a vast continent and each country’s electricity sector is unique but that is the case.
Zimbabwe, which is now tendering for 60,000 smart meters for its large-power users, is making all the right noises with a government-led smart grid blueprint and plans for a smart city, according to Wilfred Shereni, senior manager at Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company.
While Robert Mubiru of Uganda’s Umeme said the utility is metering the majority of its customer base.
Industry experts were also talking excitedly about the emerging markets of Angola, Ethiopia and Kenya.
However, in Nigeria the metering gap still yawns wide and in South Africa, a Pretoria municipality last week admitted defeat on an a wide-scale smart meter rollout.
So vendors that are building a local presence and know how to dance the steps of African business, as Daniel Swanepoel, a business consultant and training facilitator described, are well placed to participate in the smartening of the electricity, gas and water networks.
Smart metering in China and beyond
And what other learnings from the show? We spoke to meter manufacturer Shenzehn Star and discovered that every year there are 50-100 new manufacturers begin producing meters every year. Domestic metering is now widespread but the local market is so saturated that manufacturers have to look to new markets, like Africa, for growth.
From Europe, we heard from Jesper Daugaard, marketing director at Kamstrup, and Marie Fossum Strannegard, head of utilities at Ericsson on the connected networks to improve living standards and resource conservation.
While Brisbane-based Ivan Barron, chief technology officer at EDMI, told us about the Power of Choice in Australia, a government-led initiative that is still at draft stage.
The thrust of the policy is to let consumers make smart meter choices, such as whether they will opt-in or opt-out of the scheme. Under the draft ruling, consumers will also choose the meter model that meets their budget and smart home needs.