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New innovations like the Smart Grid Programme are evolving the energy industry in SA

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Technology did not evolve at a rapid speed when compared to where power engineering was 50 years ago, advancement was slow. It was all standard practice when it came to transformers and transmission lines, and communication technology was not as developed. We unknowingly found ourselves only at the brink of what was to come. Fast forward a half-century, and we are now witnessing tremendous growth in the energy industry.

The Power group of the Department of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering (EECE) at the University of Pretoria (UP), in collaboration with Enterprises University of Pretoria (Enterprises UP), is working on the Smart Grid Programme with the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI) and the South African Department of Energy (DoE) to pave a way for new approaches to problem solving Africa’s energy crisis.

Smart Grids is one of SANEDI’s flagship programmes, aligned with the Department of Energy’s strategic objectives and dedicated to conducting applied research projects to test and deploy various smart grids concepts within the South African Electricity Distribution Industry (EDI).

“Smart grid is about merging communication technologies with traditional electrical infrastructure to build a better way of doing things,” said Prof. Raj Naidoo, Head of Department: Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering at the University of Pretoria.

Prof. Naidoo elaborated further, “When you start implementing smart grid technology, you have to put in place new processes and train people in new ways so they can do their jobs efficiently.” Otherwise, you’ll have very intelligent systems but no abilities to put them to use.”

To this end, the University, in partnership with Enterprises UP, was able to design a programme that included curriculum development to provide the sector with the necessary skills.

In terms of smart metering, the training program ensured that municipalities were properly advised on rollout strategies, required skills, understanding the hardware requirements, including specifications, meter data management system, and meter hardware, and ensuring that municipalities aligned and complied with the Department of Trade Industry (DTI) requirements.

“We’re now training students in areas that are critical to the sector, such as smart metering and distributed generation, and this is where the industry is headed. Students gain practical experience that will enable them to put their skills to work in moving the economy forward.”

The Power group’s service capabilities include:

  • Smart Cities and smart grids
  • Green economy and hydrogen
  • Product design and development – expertise in hardware and embedded software design and customised product development.
  • Remote Diagnostics – field measurements and data acquisition: we can gather key information relevant to a client project. This includes power, energy, temperature, pressure etc. We log, store, display and export the data for you.
  • Training – we offer the development of short courses specific to client requirements. This incorporates curriculum development and the presentation of short courses.
  • Design and optimisation of renewable energy systems (including microgrids).
  • Protection system design.
  • Project based research and reporting

To learn more about the programme watch the video here.

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