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Digitisation could add US$1 trillion value to power supply

Digitisation could add US$1 trillion value to power supply

The dire need for electricity in poor communities across Africa cannot be overstated and more can be done through digitisation to achieve wider access to electricity by applying data and analytics to machines and systems.

This was one of the key takeaways of the 2016 General Electric Digital Day, during which it was stated that optimised power generation, underpinned by service platforms, smart devices, the 'cloud, and advanced analytics, could result in more than US$1trillion in value to the global power supply industry.

In addition, digitisation could also result in US$387 billion in asset performance management value along with up to US$2 trillion in benefits including the reduction in carbon emissions and net new job creation.

Peter Spinney, Senior Market Intelligence Leader for GE Power Digital Solutions says coal power in Africa stands to benefit.

He adds that interest in the digital solutions for coal power plants comes from as far afield as China where many new plants are currently under construction in South Africa and other parts of Africa.

Digitisation and optimisation, he adds, will allow for the focus to shift to other power generation challenges like the reduction of emissions and nitrogen oxides.

"Most people agree that coal is a bridge technology. We are moving away from coal as a planet and this is happening faster in some places than in others. I used to be an energy economist and I used to look hard at global demand and supply for electricity and the options available. It is going to be with us for a long time and in most parts of the world we are not in any kind of position to have reliable electricity without using our coal resource. What we are doing is using coal as a bridge technology in the cleanest and most efficient way possible. If you put together asset performance management, operations optimisation, the ability to look at your entire fleet across a dashboard and identify the best practices or even flag plants, we are talking about 1 to 3 percent in savings of a fuel bill, in some cases, of up to 50 billion US dollars a year."

Spinney emphasises the importance of reduced emissions in countries like South Africa which has new emissions regulations in the pipeline scheduled for finalisation in the years leading up to 2020.

Joe Anis, VP and CEO GE Power MEA says power generation is one of the areas ripe for disruption and power producers need to keep this possibility top of mind.

"There is real disruption that can occur, so if you look within the power sector it is imminent for us to be thinking about how we can address disruption and how these business models will change because they will change. We heard from the CIO of Eskom who said they are investing in smart metres so that there is data that is flowing between the user and the utility. The user is also turning into a producer and there will be a need for this two-way dialogue and ways to handle that and what it will do to our business model and to the utility."

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