1. Education And Lessons Learned
Providing a source and resource for the understanding of the evolving challenges, range of potential solutions and cost/benefit of modernizing their energy, water and street lighting utilities is the first step in creating a way forward for many utilities in Africa. UTC in general and UTC’s Utility Modernization Advisor Program in specific, are dedicated to educating its global utility members on the information, telecommunication and operational technology solutions to their technical challenges and value that they bring to our member utilities and their consumers. UTC is uniquely positioned to create these forums and educational content on the value of deploying modernisation as the trade association is regarded as a trusted source and resource for information that can be used in making these kinds of important decisions.
UTC’s global utility members have been working for decades, albeit at different paces, to modernize their utilities to provide the most efficient, cost-effective, reliable and consumer friendly services, as technology, economics and regulatory approval allowed. This is what UTC calls “utility modernization”. UTC can fulfill this education requirement in numerous ways including workshops, summits and panel discussions during our global annual meetings (US, Africa, Canada, Europe, and Latin America) during webinars, summits and forums, and in numerous white papers. Additionally, UTC provides a level of on-going support that only a dedicated, non-profit trade association can provide its members. For example, at UTC Telecom & Technology, Atlanta, May 2015, UTC will run 75 different panel sessions on challenges facing utilities, including case studies and other lessons learned from other similarly situated utilities. These in-depth sessions are tailored to meet the specific needs of our global members at all of UTC’s global meetings. While 7 of the panels are specifically identified as supporting utility modernization efforts, the remaining panels address other aspects of utility operations that will have a major impact on ensuring that our US and international members are well equipped to meet the challenges they face.
2. Leverage UTC’s Utility Modernization Advisor
UTC will work with the Africa utilities to enable the use of UTC’s Utility Modernization Advisor to provide an expedited, low-cost/low risk program to move the Africa utilities from vision creation to deployment in a fraction of the time and cost of traditional approaches.
UTC created its UMA to respond to the concerns of our US members that:
- they couldn’t afford the traditional approach to determining if the benefits of the next steps in modernization exceeded the costs;
- they didn’t trust the downloadable tools nor the assumptions and data provided; and
- that they wanted to be educated and mentored on how to do-it-themselves and maintain that learning within the utility.
To respond to these concerns, UTC created its Utility Modernization Advisor program in the US. UTC then created in 2015 UTC’s Brazilian Smart Grid Advisor sponsored in part by an award from the International Trade Administration. These programs, can both be leveraged to help Africa utilities create their own modernization vision, strategy and benefits cases, in a fraction of the time and cost with minimized risk as compared to traditional methods, and importantly based upon benchmark data from a trusted source and resource – UTC. UTC would work with Africa utilities to create a version of the Utility Modernization Advisor that would support the Africa utility modernization efforts.
UTC, with the support of an independent consultancy polled 29 US utilities that have already deployed major modernization programs. Based on the benchmark data provided to UTC under strict non-disclosure agreements, and the experiences on additional relevant major US and International utility programs, UTC created the Utility Modernization Advisor (UMA). The UMA, through the use of an education and training program, templates and our benchmark data enables utilities themselves, with UTC’s mentoring support, to create their own modernization vision (which often spans electric, gas, water and street lighting), a deployment strategy and a benefits case which shows the value to the utility and its consumers from such modernization solutions.
What is unique about UTC’s UMA program is that the benefit benchmark data comes from actual utility deployments and since it comes to the utilities from their own trade association, it comes as unfiltered and unbiased, trusted data. Equally as important is that UTC has reduced the entire process down to an Agile Kaizen Management method focused on critical path of decisions, aided by templates and mentoring so that what has taken utilities working with consulting firms months to generally years is being accomplished in about a month at a fraction of the cost.
3) Modernisation Pilot
Proving the technologies and benefits of the modernization program in an actual pilot program is the next step toward ensuring the sale of a full scale modernization deployment. UTC will work with its US members to develop and implement a modernization pilot to demonstrate the solutions identified as appropriate for the Africa utilities. The structure of the Africa utility industry, especially in South Africa, reflects the “structured wholesale markets” in the US, where there are various entities providing generation and transmission services to mainly distribution only utilities. Closely coordinating and optimizing the operations of the generation and transmission providers on the one hand, with the demands and needs of the distribution utilities and their customers on the others will be challenge and goal of an Africa modernization pilot. The pilot will ensure that the technologies and other solutions being proposed and implemented will meet this goal.
Africa’s energy structure closely resembles many aspects of the US market, where distribution utilities rely on wholesale markets, Regional Transmission Operators and others for many wholesale related services and focus mainly on their own distribution level services. For example, ESKOM is the largest generation and transmission entity on the continent, providing energy to many of the large and small utilities. Unlike the historic vertically integrated utilities, the Africa markets and utilities are challenged in their ability to optimize all aspects of this relationship, including generation, distribution, integrating distributed energy resources, optimizing distribution resources. UTC proposes to identify interested vendors and work with them to create modernization pilots using US modernization technologies that would show how a large G&T can work with its distribution utilities to optimize the benefits to both, as well as their ultimate consumers.
4) Additional Value
UTC is a 66 year old global non-profit membership-driven organization serving as the source and resource for information, communications and operations technology solutions, collaboration, and advocacy for energy and water utilities and other critical infrastructure industries. UTC’s membership also includes those companies that provide the technologies and solutions required to meet the existing and emerging challenges of 21st Century utilities. UTC’s global outreach leverages UTC Canada – Ottawa; European UTC – Brussels; UTC America Latina – Rio de Janeiro and Africa UTC – Johannesburg