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​The City’s waste-to-energy project will be presented at African Utility Week, the continent’s leading utility conference.
AFRICA’S premier utility conference – African Utility Week – will be returning to Johannesburg for the first time since its inaugural event in 2000; it has been hosted in Cape Town every year since, but will be returning to its roots when it is hosted at the Nasrec Expo Centre from 21 to 24 May.

Smart metering will come under discussionSmart metering will come under discussionAbout 300 exhibitors and 5 000 experts in areas such as waste management, metering, infrastructure investment and water will converge on the expo centre to exchange knowledge and ideas. The conference’s organisers explain: “Africa’s all-encompassing power and water event, African Utility Week, delivers business opportunities for utilities, large industrial end users and solution providers across all sectors.”

Joining these industry professionals will be officials from organisations such as Joburg Water, City Power, Pikitup and from the City’s environmental and infrastructure and services departments.

Eight themes will be examined at the four-day conference, during which there will be break-away sessions and presentations: metering, renewables, water, large industry, investment, transmission and distribution (T&D) and smart grids, generation and waste management.

Smart metering
Presentations relating to metering will look at pre-paid meter installations, meter data management and smart metering, among others. Sessions focusing on renewables will examine the role of renewable energy and the cost effectiveness of technologies, and water presentations will showcase the best practices in revenue and loss management, highlighting the role of the private sector and the necessity of a sound water security plan.

Large industry sessions will examine the growing need for energy efficiency and demand management, especially in terms of supply and demand and the impact that these factors will have on operational costs. Practical advice on maintaining output while decreasing costs will also be provided.

Executives, policymakers, ministerial delegations and financiers will discuss how to stimulate growth in Africa’s power sector during the investment breakaway sessions. Also on the table will be talks on understanding investment challenges and the opportunities that are available in Africa.

MathibeliPalesa Mathibeli, senior project manager for the waste treatment technoloy projectFacilitating economic development in transmission and distribution, as well as smart grids, will feature in talks on this theme. On the agenda will be how to foster private participation and harness the potential of smart grids.

Generation presentations will focus on the optimal way of meeting generation capacity and the role of emerging technology.

Waste management breakaway sessions will focus on how to integrate resource recovery into waste management programmes and strategies, as well as how to meet the ever-increasing demand for waste service provision in line with local, provincial, national and international standards.

The senior project manager for the waste treatment technology project in the City, Palesa Mathibeli, will speak about Joburg’s waste-to-energy venture set up through a public-private partnership (PPP).

Waste to energy
In an interview with African Utility Week organisers, Mathibeli said the project would reduce the size of the waste residue. “The waste-to-energy project will entail a new waste disposal method in which normal municipal or industrial waste, rather than being disposed of at a landfill, is taken to a facility or waste treatment plant and is processed,” she said.

“Although the main aim is to reduce the size of the waste so we save on landfill space, there is a renewable energy that is produced in this process.” The energy can be converted into electricity, fuel or gas.

This project was initiated in 2008 when increasing demand was being placed on Joburg’s landfill space, in an effort to find sustainable ways of disposing of this waste. “Although Pikitup is already doing many things in managing the landfill airspace waste, such as creating more space and recycling, we still felt we needed to look for a long-term, sustainable solution,” Mathibeli said.

Looking to Europe for inspiration, the City found the solution it needed in the waste-to-energy project. However, along with the solution came another problem: cost. “We found that these technologies do not come cheap; we are looking at an investment of between R2-billion and R10-billion.

Joburg is turning waste into energy through its landfill to gas energy projectJoburg is turning waste into energy through its landfill gas to energy project“We therefore started looking into procuring this technology through the PPP mechanism, to get a private investor who could assist us with a solution while we can provide the investor with a 20- to 30-year contract to recoup the investment,” she explained.

It is expected that work will start on building the first treatment plant in August 2013 and should be opened about two years later in 2015.

Mathibeli will focus specifically on using the PPP structure in implementing waste management strategies for the future. “I will focus on the project management and project development side of the PPP project. I want to share with my municipal colleagues how we used a collaborative process of successfully partnering with other institutions such as the IDC [Industrial Development Corporation] and National Treasury,” she said.

Water hackathon
There will be plenty of other highlights to look forward to at African Utility Week, including a water hackathon and the opening address by Eskom’s chief executive officer, Brian Dames.

In the water hackathon, information technology (IT) practitioners will compete to solve water-related challenges with innovative new software and technology. Free technical seminars will also allow for the exchange of knowledge between exhibitors and visitors.

For more information on the conference, exhibition and activities scheduled for African Utility Week, visit the website.

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