Smart grid technology deployment and impact assessment at eThekwini electricity.
The world‟s population is increasing rapidly and is projected to reach 8 billion within the next few decades. Urban migration is also on the rise and it is estimated that there would be significant growth in Africa and more Africans will reside in urban rather than rural areas by 2030. eThekwini, as a leading city in Africa has to establish practices to enable that it utilizes its current resources optimally and sustainably to cater for its future energy and resource requirements. The role of Smart Grid (SG) systems as an electricity industry enabler has been recognized throughout the developed world. The effective introduction and implementation of SGs is also regarded as a major enabler to realize some of the key objectives at local, provincial and national government levels. Significant investment has gone into modernizing the existing electricity grid infrastructure at eThekwini to make it smarter, albeit with varying degrees of success. The term “SG” refers to optimizing, automating and modernizing of the electrical network so that it monitors, protects and automatically optimizes the operation of its interconnected elements. In the eThekwini context, this would include the electricity purchase points from Eskom; distributed generation injection points; the high-, medium- and low voltage networks as well as the industrial, commercial and domestic consumers and their applications and devices. The SG is characterized by a two way flow of electricity and information to create an optimized and automated network that has self-healing properties. It would incorporate the benefits of distributed computing and modern communication systems to deliver information in real-time which enables the almost instantaneous balance of supply and demand. SGs will be designed to ensure high levels of reliability, security, quality, availability and will also aim to improve economic productivity, minimize environmental impact, maximize safety and improve quality of life. The aim, objective and research question of this study will address as to how eThekwini‟s SG maturity levels compare to local and international peers, whether the SG technology deployment is aligned with its objectives, to ascertain the impact of SG implementation and whether the anticipated benefits are being realized. The concept of SG has only been recently formalized at eThekwini and very little research has been conducted in this area which this study aims to address.