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Just energy transition spurs innovation in energy value chain

24th March 2023


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The just energy transition (JET) in South Africa provides global power technologies leader Hitachi Energy with opportunities to supply the utility, industry and infrastructure sectors with innovative solutions and services across the energy sector value chain.

“Digital and energy platforms are needed for the enormous power system energy transition challenges of increased complexity and additional capacity requirements. These platforms allow for greater grid resilience and help manage the shift to a more complex power generation landscape by matching fluctuations in power supply and demand dynamically,” explains Hitachi Energy MD for sub-Saharan Africa Malvin Naicker.

Battery Energy Storage

Looking at innovative new technologies in the energy sector, Naicker says the spotlight is on renewable energy, microgrid solutions and battery energy storage systems (BESS) to ensure stable and sustainable power for a clean-energy future.

Despite coal still playing a significant role in the local energy mix, South Africa stands to leverage “the massive opportunity of harnessing renewables and distributed energy sources”, points out Naicker.

“Hitachi Energy’s BESS solutions focus on grid support functions to ensure grid stability and are designed to work with third-party batteries. Storage solutions mitigate the challenge of variability of renewable energy, hoping to balance demand and supply.”

Digital Ecosystem

Part of Hitachi Energy’s growing digital innovation ecosystem is included in its e-mesh™ portfolio of solutions, which combines advanced analytics, energy management software and hardware systems with BESS.

It also offers automation and intelligent control and stabilisation solutions to manage renewable-energy integration, ensuring utility-grade power quality and grid stability while reducing costs.

Naicker says a trend is that some smaller municipalities are considering deploying supervisory control and data acquisition and distribution management systems to better manage their networks.

Skills, Procurement Challenges

The biggest challenges in transitioning to a carbon-neutral future are skills and procurement mechanisms.

“Many utilities have historically bought, implemented and managed their systems using in-house resources. The ever-increasing pace of technological change, and the JET, combined with the diminishing skills pool available, puts this model under pressure, often slowing the pace of delivery substantially,” says Naicker.

Realising the JET requires partnerships between customers and multiple suppliers to be embraced to speed up solution development and delivery.

Naicker highlights that many of today’s solutions to manage the JET are software-based. The most suitable mechanism to supply these solutions is the ‘as a service’ model.

This ensures that systems are kept up to date with regard to evolving functionality and managing cybersecurity threats properly. The procurement mechanisms of many customers, however, make it difficult to procure software as a service and inhibit the advantages of this delivery model, he adds.

Energy Trading

The company also helps organisations meet their sustainability targets, minimise market risk while maximising profitability, and comply with ever-changing industry regulations and standards.

“Our energy trading and risk management (ETRM) solutions consistently win awards and recognition from users and renowned industry think tanks, confirming our proven record as a global ETRM leader. Our ETRM solutions are uniquely positioned to support decarbonisation, digitalisation and decentralisation.”


Recent changes in regulations mean that large power users can now generate and use their own electrical energy. “We anticipate that users will start to trade power with one other, with the energy grid becoming the trading platform for such exchanges,” says Naicker.

Further, sophisticated solutions are available from the company to manage such trading, which allows for real-time exchange of power between users and settlements of the resultant commercial transactions.

“With the rapid deployment of self-generation under way, it is easier and cheaper to save a kilo-watt-hour of demand than build generation to cater for that demand. Improved energy efficiency is essential if the world is to decarbonise successfully.

“The digital solutions available support the implementation of energy efficiency, both through the identification of where energy is being used and the actions needed to use it more efficiently.”

Enterprise Asset Management

Naicker highlights that enterprise asset management (EAM) solutions are becoming widely used, as they assist utilities to record their asset base, understand the status of assets and manage maintenance.

A related development are asset performance management (APM) solutions, which are relatively “new to the local market”.

“Distributed energy resource management software enables utilities to manage the integration of dispersed generation in their networks as an extension of the distributed management system already in place. APM solutions take advantage of artificial intelligence and expert models to predict the remaining lifetime of electrical network assets, and prioritise maintenance of assets to ensure continued and safe operation,” says Naicker.

APM dynamically monitors the condition of assets using existing and new sensors and data to predict the state of the assets and their life expectancy.

It filters out faults from the data and prioritises EAM to ensure rectification actions are undertaken and recorded. “Utilities globally are starting to see the benefit of APM, leading to an increased demand for such solutions,” says Naicker.

“Regardless of Eskom’s supply challenges, as the grid decarbonises through the implementation of more renewable resources, every energy user will be required to be aware of their use and manage it. Currently, this is possible through energy efficient solutions and digitalisation providing increased visibility and capability to self-provide and store electrical energy,” concludes Naicker.

Edited by Zandile Mavuso
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Features


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