The South Africa National Energy Development Institute (Sanedi) has advised the South African government that it needs electricity producers and distributors to invest in smart grids to deal with infrastructure maintenance backlogs because current practices do not guarantee business sustainability and economic growth.

The organisation, which is charged with assisting the Department of Energy in achieving its strategic objectives as set out in the country’s energy mix plan, said a lack of maintenance was posing significant risks to the industry.

It said that the the country’s infrastructure needed urgent rehabilitation and investment, reports IOL.

Willem de Beer of Sanedi told Parliament that unless an immediate and direct intervention was initiated, it would be very difficult for the industry to recover from its downward trajectory.

A study done by EDI Holdings in 2008, a company set up by the government to address issues of energy distribution, showed a maintenance backlog in the country’s electricity grid was estimated at R27.4 billion ($3.5bn).

The closing down of EDI Holdings has left a huge gap in the electricity industry.

De Beer said if the electricity distribution industry was left to decide on its own what technology options to use, South Africa could end up with non-standardised solutions.

The organisation said between now and 2020, more than R250bn ($31bn) would need to be spent on the maintenance and expansion of South Africa’s electricity transmission and distribution infrastructure.

“But without a smart grid perspective, much of this money will be spent based on the 20th century technology.

“Under business-as-usual – without a smart grid perspective – that would be like expanding the nation’s telecommunications system without taking advantage of today’s digital and wireless technologies,” De Beer argued.

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