African Utility Week Survey Shows That Energy and Water Sectors Are Excited by Solar PV and Distributed Generation But View Corruption as Biggest Challenge

Cape Town, South Africa, March 31, 2018 --( Solar PV is overwhelmingly seen as the most promising generation source for Africa while corruption, skills gaps and access to finance are some of the biggest challenges that power and water professionals face in their industries. This is according to a survey by the organisers of African Utility Week amongst attendees of the annual event in Cape Town last year.

Other questions in the survey included what respondents think will have the biggest impact on the energy and water sectors, what future technology excites them and what the biggest challenges are that they face in their industry.

Of the 834 people surveyed, 696 are South African (71%), 199 are from 24 other African countries (63 Kenyan, 85 Nigerian) and 40 from the rest of the world, including Europe, USA, China, India and Canada.

Most promising generation source
Asked what the most promising source of generation is for Africa, Solar PV scored more than 54% amongst the respondents while nuclear was second with 11%.

“The reason could be that rooftop PV, when measured against the other technologies, is easy to execute as a project and photovoltaic modules are becoming very affordable,” says Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl, editor of the energy trade journal, ESI Africa.

She adds: “It is also the most obvious technology to use in mini- and off-grid projects as well as for use in hybrid models. However, what is interesting but not surprising is that 11% of respondents feel that nuclear energy is the most promising generation source. Nuclear has its merits. What is disappointing is how few are in favour of biomass as a promising source of generation capacity, considering that this technology offers a distributed model and a measure of reducing the mounds of waste that Africa’s cities are confronted with. Another concern is the lack of interest in wind energy – only 8% of respondents felt this technology a worthy source; however, it does rank slightly higher than hydro where the continent’s impressive potential capacity is recorded. Wind energy is likely to make tentative steps towards market growth now that South African, Kenyan and Moroccan wind farms are making good headwinds.”

Nuclear scored the lowest amongst power and water professionals when asked what they think will have the biggest positive impact on the energy and water sectors in Africa within the next 5-10 years: (Respondents were allowed to select more than one of the 12 options provided.)

1. Technology innovation 59%
2. Government commitment and transparency 55%
3. Uptake of renewables 47%
4. Expansion of mini grids 28%
5. Distributed generation 25%
6. Cross border partnerships 24%
7. Investment in capacity building 21%
8. Local investment 21%
9. Direct foreign investment 20%
10. Roll out of ICT systems 9%
11. Nuclear 7%

Future technology
Asked which future technologies most excite the respondents, the results were as follows:

Smart Grids 54%
Energy storage 49%
Energy trading 49%
Connected/smart cities 37%
Electric vehicles 36%
Energy trading 14%
Blockchain 14%

That the market has a healthy appetite for the futuristic technology was confirmed in a separate question whether the market is ready for the digital utility with a focus on smart meters, grids, Internet of Things and ICT – the overwhelming reply was a yes from 84% of the respondents.

Biggest challenge = corruption
At 49%, corruption was indicated as the biggest challenge that power and water professionals face in their industries but issues such as skills gap, access to finance, regulation and policy clarity, red tape and economic slowdown were also perceived as important hindrances, scoring from 36% to 28%.

The future lies in
When asked the question: “The future lies in:” and given four choices only, namely distributed generation, mini grids, utility scale grids and storage, distributed generation was a clear winner at 40% with storage second at 27%, then mini grids with 22% and utility scale grids scoring the lowest with 11%.

Skills deficit in power and water sectors
Skills in finance, engineering/technical, people management and leadership all scored high (29%-33%) in a question on what power and water professionals perceived to present the biggest skills deficit in their companies.

Award-winning energy platform
The 18th annual, multi-award winning African Utility Week will gather over 7000 decision makers from more than 80 countries to discuss the challenges, solutions and successes in the power, energy and water sectors on the continent. Along with multiple side events and numerous networking functions the event also boasts a seven track conference with over 300 expert speakers.

Industry support
African Utility Week has already secured important industry support including Eskom Rotek Industries, Hexing and Landis+Gyr as platinum sponsors and Aberdare, Africa Utility Solutions, SAP and Sensus as gold sponsors.
African Utility Week
Annemarie Roodbol
+27 21 700 3558