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 Invest in electricity infrastructure, review billing models, African govts told

Invest in electricity infrastructure, review billing models, African govts told

Africa’s electricity crisis is mostly due to outdated infrastructure and inadequate billing models, seem to say critics and experts.

“The days of the classical Kilowatt hour business are over,” Willie de Beer, chairman of the DistribuTECH Africa advisory board, said.

“Reselling power for a set margin is no longer enough – the sector needs to look to new revenue streams, and leverage technology to encourage customer engagement and energy efficiency, among others, in ways that ease the pressures on the national grid.”

Frequent power cuts and load-shedding have become like a sport of football across sub-Saharan Africa, where only 9% of people have access to electricity in rural areas against 55% in urban centres.

De Beer attributed this crisis to ageing infrastructure and workforce, with serious gaps in asset management and performance management.

In South Africa, Africa’s biggest economy, power problems have seriously challenged the economy, to such an extent that many mining operations were at some stage performing at half-capacity.

Another expert, Black & Veatch’s Shahid Qadri said the continent needed a ‘resetting of equilibrium’ on the financing of power.  “We need to reopen the debate on funding and revenue models,” he said.

Prince Moyo, Eskom general manager for power delivery engineering, admitted that many Eskom plants were operating beyond their original design life and therefore require higher levels of planned maintenance work.

“It’s a critical decision time for Eskom,” Moyo said.  “We have to assess: do we shut down plants as they reach their design life, or do we undertake life extension projects?”

Eskom is South Africa’s national power supplier that produces 95% of the country’s electricity from coal, making the company one of Africa’s biggest greengas house emitters.

In 2010, Eskom got a whopping loan of US$3.75 billion (nearly R37 billion) from the World Bank to help South Africa achieve a reliable electricity supply, and finance some of its renewable energy projects.

These experts were speaking at the power roundtable hosted recently in Johannesburg, South Africa, by DistribuTECH.

A global Power-Gen and DistribuTECH summit on power is due to take place in Cape Town in March 2014. Both organisations are owned by US-based PenWell Corporation.

Photo: African children studying with candlight. Credit: Biyokulule.com

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