From the editors desk: A quiet revolution

October 2023 News

Welcome to our bumper issue of SA Instrumentation & Control. Spring is more than here and there are some interesting things going on in the background. One of these is the quiet revolution in solar.

Kim Roberts.

The equivalent of a power plant

The latest data from Eskom shows that South African households and businesses have installed 4,4 GW of rooftop PV power, up from 983 MW in March to 4412 MW in June 2023. This is equivalent to a fair-sized power plant. This increase has reduced the demand that Eskom needs to meet during the day by a long way, and softened the impact of loadshedding; and it’s expected to increase another 420% by 2030.

Imports of solar panels have hit a new record, with R8,4 billion worth of panels being imported in the second quarter of 2023, over double the amount imported in the first quarter, which in turn was more than the entire value imported in 2022. Research from RMB Morgan Stanley shows that electricity generated from the private sector will exceed the output from Eskom’s generation plants by 2025. It looks like the private sector is filling the void left by Eskom in a similar way to private airlines filling the gap left by the collapse of SAA.

Lithium batteries through the roof

Here’s another one. All this solar power needs to be stored, and demand for lithium batteries also went through the roof in 2022, with imports tripling compared to 2021. Economists at Trade and Industrial Policy Strategies say that South Africa imported a record R12 billion of lithium batteries in 2022. In the first quarter of 2023, we imported five times as many batteries as in the whole of 2022. The private sector is getting off the grid at a staggering rate. PwC says the strong increase in the number of jobs created over the past 12 months reflects a growing resilience of private companies to the negative impacts of loadshedding.

Our digital wellbeing

There’s more. Nowadays our quality of life is merging with our digital experience – think what it’s like if something happens to your phone or laptop. The Digital Quality of Life Index put out by Surfshark ranks us 72nd in the world in 2023 – not too bad, considering. This is an annual study that ranks 121 countries by their digital wellbeing, based on internet quality, internet affordability, e-security, e-infrastructure and e-government.

Among the study’s key findings are that we have the best digital quality of life in Africa, while our internet quality is 63rd in the world. At 70 Mbps, our mobile and fixed internet speed have improved by 30% since last year. We performed best in internet affordability, at 52nd in the world – despite what we might think.

A gap in the market

Here’s a different example − someone who saw a gap in the market and went for it. In News & Events we feature Manqoba Siya Gumede, who has written a field reference handbook on Industrial Instrumentation and Process Control. He is trained and qualified in instrumentation, and has been in the industry for 24 years. The book covers information compiled from academic references, plant and field manuals, and fieldwork experience. It contains practical information that can be used, regardless of academic level, and covers a very wide range of principles in electrical instrumentation and electronics.

Manqoba says the aim is to simplify the daily life of a technical person in the field of industrial instrumentation. The book is ideal for instrument technicians, newly qualified engineers, municipal technical departments, lecturers at universities and colleges, and even ‘rusty personnel who need a refresher’. It contains helpful practical advice that cannot be found in the usual academic texts. As he says: “This book is for all”.

A blast from the past

SAIMC goes back a long way, and there are many colourful characters in its past. The council believes this history is worth preserving, and is looking for articles on interesting historical stories about people and events that shaped the automation industry over the years. There’s even a prize for the winning story. To kick this off we have a story from Ken Baker, a former president and long-time member of SAIMC, who shares his memories of his illustrious career and his time with SAIMC. Its a fascinating reminder of what it was like in the ‘good old days‘ and is worth a read. We have it online, and the link to the SAIMC website is in the CEO’s letter by Johan Maartens.


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