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It is the Utility Show at Power and Electricity World Africa, the continent’s largest power and energy exhibition, and Joburg is talking energy and economic growth.
PROVIDING electricity for African houses is a primary means of generating and driving economic growth for the continent.

City's director for energy Thabo MahlatsiCity's director of energy Thabo MahlatsiThis is according to the City’s director of energy, Thabo Mahlatsi, who gave the keynote address at the 2012 Utility Show at the Sandton Convention Centre on 27 March. The Utility Show is part of Power and Electricity World Africa, the continent’s largest power and energy exhibition.

Mahlatsi focused on the responsibilities of African power distributors, their weaknesses and how they could overcome challenges to effectively provide services. “The task of African utilities is to cover the Millennium Goals, none of which cite energy as a renewable resource,” he said.

“Electrifying African houses has serious economic spin-offs but we, as Africans, need to work together.”

The total electrical capacity installed in Africa is 106.3 gigawatts (GW), of which southern Africa accounts for 66.8GW, or 63 percent. It was obvious then, according to Mahlatsi, that we had a strong foundation on which to build, including sufficient natural resources such as gas, oil and coal.

“We have the power,” he claimed. We just needed to grow co-operation between utilities and residents to contribute to the common good. A key way of doing this was to support renewable alternative energy sectors, he explained. Joburg has already supported a number of these initiatives, including solar water heating systems and low energy, high-efficiency lighting.

In addition, Mahlatsi said, it was important for utilities to acknowledge their weaknesses so that they could find ways to overcome them. “African tariffs are not well designed because income levels are low and rates are high, which inhibits payment for services,” he explained.

“Utilities need to define their roles so they can structure their organisations accordingly.” This involved looking at internal and external challenges which they faced. Internal challenges ranged from revenue management and losses to customer care and operational efficiency, while external challenges included electricity shortages, rising prices and demand side management.

It would only be through reconciling these obstacles and encouraging the co-operation of the country’s citizens that African utilities would be able to perform efficiently and drive economic growth, according to Mahlatsi.

“Electrification is the key driver of development, not the other way around.”

Utility Show
The two-day Utility Show, on 27 and 28 March, also offers lectures and panel discussions on supplying uninterrupted and secure energy to all citizens. These sessions look at a variety of themes, such as collecting revenue more effectively; engaging with customers; integrating new customer engagement technologies with existing ones; implementing consistent pricing regulation; and developing viable project relationships with municipalities and utilities.

It is a platform for knowledge exchange from other African countries on the finest technology and best practices in power generation.

Many of Mahlatsi’s sentiments are echoed and illustrated at the City’s stand in the Power and Electricity World Africa trade show, which has more than 4 000 participants, among them Africa’s leading municipalities, utilities and investors, examining the latest innovations in the energy industry.

Joburg’s stand looks at off-grid solutions that meet the energy requirements of an entire household, including mini hydro power generation, landfill closed cycle gas turbine (CCGT), and conventional distribution system from surplus load from demand side management (DSM) interventions.

Also a part of the trade show and conference are the Africa Energy Awards, which take place on 28 March and reward excellence in Africa’s power and electricity sector.

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