It is no secret that South Africa's national power grid is under severe pressure, and the country's energy supply is unreliable and insecure. Power utlity, Eskom, is faced with ongoing crises, and at the back of peoples' minds is the ever prevailing possibility of a recurrence of rolling power blackouts with which the country was beset in the later months of 2007.
A solution that can contribute to overcoming this situation is the 'smart' grid. The smart grid combines ICT and leading edge intelligence capabilities with existing electicla infrastructure to deliver real-time energy informaiton and knowledge. It can without doubt help support energy needs and significantly enhance electricity distribution.
However, implementing the correct technical processes and leveraging the necessary skills to enable a smart grid, come with their own set of challenges.
"The challenges can be clodely likened to a classic management problem," says Badley Hemphill, Managing Director of EES, an ISO 9001:2008 certified company, which provides management, engineering and technical auditing solutions to clients.
"Management needs a set of cometencies, coupled to a set of processes and the application of the correct human behaviour. In a smart grid, competency can take the form of technology; process takes the form of our regulatory environment; and human behaviour equates to people."
The two key areas where ICT comes into play are Automated Demand Response and Cloud Computing. The typical use of Automated Demand Response is to send information and signals to cause power-using devices to be turned off during periods of high demand. Cloud Computing is the use of a newtwork of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage and process data.
"We need to combine technology, the regulalatory environment and people, and collaborate to achieve this smart grid. Integral to this is havig the right conversations, with the right people.
"We will not be replacing the existing grid, so it is necessary to start with existing systems and then progressively link them together by utilising ICT enabling technologies and intelligence capabilities," Hemphill concludes.
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