A flagship programme within SANEDI is the Smart Grids Programme, which focuses on research and deploys various smart grids concepts within the electricity distribution industry. Through the EU Donor Funded Smart Grids Programme, SANEDI facilitated the implementation of 10 pilot projects, aimed at improving the sustainability outlook of operating an electricity utility at municipal level.
Smart Grids are electricity networks that can intelligently integrate the actions of all users connected to it – generators, consumers and those that do both – in order to efficiently deliver sustainable, economic and secure electricity supplies.
Participating municipalities were eThekwini Municipality, Nala Local Municipality, Naledi Local Municipality, Govan Mbeki Local Municipality, Thabazimbi Local Municipality, Mogale City Local Municipality, City Power, Msunduzi Local Municipality, Matatiele Local Municipality and Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality.
Overall, this project confirmed that the Smart Grids Programme enhanced revenue collection, improved cash flow and detected theft. Importantly, such projects rely on a combination of people, process and technology, each with equal importance to succeed. New technologies are introduced within distribution networks and smart grids allow for the integration of people and processes as an enabler for positive change.
The benefits associated with Smart Grids include:
- More efficient transmission of electricity
- Quicker restoration of electricity after power disturbances
- Reduced operations and management costs for utilities and ultimately lower power costs for consumers
- Reduced peak demand, which will also help lower electricity rates
- Increased integration of large-scale renewable energy systems
- Better integration of customer-owner power generation systems, including renewable energy systems
- Improved security
The Smart Grids Programme addresses objectives of energy transformation and service delivery. Its technology employs smart mechanisms to transition to an energy mix on the South African grid, which allows South Africa to meet its climate change objectives as well as address inefficiencies in the municipal system.
SANEDI has identified the manner in which Smart Grids are instrumental in supporting sound decision-making within a utility, based on actual and accurate data. Smart Grids adopt a broader focus to a utility’s needs, reaching far beyond technologies and solutions to establish smart systems and processes to improve the entire value chain of a utility.