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Smart grid can mitigate system challenges

An image of the Strategic National Smart Grid Vision for the South African Electricity Supply Industry launch

VISION LAUNCH Smart technology can ensure reliability and efficiency of the electricity grid

21st April 2023

By: Nadine Ramdass

Creamer Media Writer

     

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The integration of smart technology can ensure reliability and efficiency of the country’s electricity grid. A smart grid system will be able to effectively manage challenges associated with current electricity distribution systems such as maintenance and breakdowns.

The life span of electricity distribution networks has significantly been reduced, owing to a lack of investment in grid infrastructure, a lack of maintenance and a reactive approach to infrastructure asset management.

Ongoing loadshedding also creates more pressure on the system when power is switched off frequently.

The second version of the Strategic National Smart Grid Vision for the South African Electricity Supply Industry by energy research institution South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI), launched last month, serves as a national framework and guide to assist the implementation of a smart grid system.

The strategy explains the benefits and necessity of implementing such a system. The updated version takes into account the energy transition and is aligned with South Africa’s net zero goals.

The strategy was created in collaboration with various industry stakeholders, including research organisation Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, State-owned utility Eskom, research organisation Electric Power Research Institute, the University of Pretoria and municipalities.

SANEDI energy efficiency acting GM Teslim Yusuf explains that the purpose of the strategy is to provide direction for various industry stakeholders to work towards a common goal and understand their role in the transition to a smart grid system.

It serves as a “common, national blueprint for the smart grid before industry stakeholders and participants commit to an investment programme of this magnitude and complexity”.

The strategy also presents a project goal, called Vision 2030, which provides a timeline for stakeholders to follow to allow for a functional smart grid system by 2030.

SANEDI applied energy research, development and innovation GM Professor Prathaban Moodley says the objective of the strategy, and a smart grid system, is to improve system efficiency, increase renewable-energy integration, enhance grid resilience and empower customers.

Yusuf adds that, as part of the strategy’s development, SANEDI, along with its collaborators, has evaluated South Africa’s current grid system to determine an approach that will address the challenges that the country is contending with.

He explains that, to create a system that will work for the country, the strategy has researched approaches to a smart grid system implemented in other countries and determined methods that are suited to South Africa’s requirements.

Moving Forward
As part of developing the strategy, SANEDI conducted ten pilot programmes with municipalities.

The programmes considered four core areas to understand the impact of smart grid technology on the respective municipalities and based the strategy in part on the programmes’ results.

The institution has also produced a how-to guide to assist municipalities in implementing the objectives and recommendations of the strategy.

Moodley notes that the strategy and the guide should not be viewed as absolute or fixed, but rather as a flexible guide on the options available to stakeholders.

Movement towards a smart grid is critical, even if all municipalities do not reach the goal of Vision 2030 simultaneously, while any improvements made to align with the goal of a smart grid will have positive effects on a municipality, he adds.

Yusuf explains that municipalities should determine what their immediate requirements are and use that as a basis for what they implement.

Factors such as the municipality’s budget and available skills are also important when choosing technology to integrate in their systems as part of the transition to a smart grid.

Further, Moodley says municipalities should invest in technology that will provide the service delivery results they want, rather than in technology that may be “new and exciting”, but does not fully address their service delivery requirements.

Edited by Zandile Mavuso
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Features

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