Prospects for Microgrids in the Republic of South Africa

October 12, 2011 - 12:00pm
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The South African utility Eskom is the main key player for the energy business in South Africa. Eskom owns the electricity networks and most of the electricity generation, transmission and distribution leading to monopolistic energy market in the country. The South African economy is quite strong in the African Continent and the energy demand has been growing very fast in the country. Most of the current energy mix is coming from coal fired thermal power stations in addition with a small fraction from nuclear as well as open cycle gas turbine and a bit of hydro power. The renewable energy generation is negligibly small. The present generation level for the country is around 44GW which is most likely to be doubled by 2025 with at least 20% share from renewable resources. Hence the electricity market in the country is also growing fast and many IPPs are motivated in the energy business with NERSA REFIT structure irrespective of present monopolistic market. The country is quite big with a huge diverse climate zones in addition with high cross-section of a mix of urban and remote village areas. There are many remote villages where there is no grid for supply of electricity mainly because of the terrain of the country and remoteness of the villages. The government has mandates of rural electrification for every households of all the villages. This will be economically only with the implementation of microgrids at remote villages. Government and private stake holders are in the process of implementing experimental microgrid at the Robben Island where South African first president Nelson Mandella was jailed for a couple of decades. Prof. SP Chowdhury and Dr. Sunetra Chowdhury have been jointly leading the MASRU (Microgrids and Smartgrids Research Unit) at the University of Cape Town since 2008. They have jointly published in early 2009 the IET (UK) research book "Microgrids and Active Distribution Networks" which in the best selling rank of amazon and kalahari with its kindle version. The Chowdhurys have worked for Brunel University, London for one year as well as for Manchester University, Manchester, UK for one year before joining the UCT. At present, their research group, MASRU has been running several government and industrial projects totaling more than five million Rands

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