“In the new dynamic of an integrated energy mix, the renewable wind and solar systems have different distribution areas, which results in a more complex grid,” explains Taru Madangombe, vice president of power systems, Anglophone Cluster for Schneider Electric. “To mitigate this, we need smart grids to direct the distribution systems on the network. Smart grids allow power flows to go in different directions to avoid breakdown of the network.
“We need to widen our vision and see the potential of smart cities, built on smart grid technologies. Smart cities are where people have access to public services such as hospitals and transportation services, as well as governmental departments, all optimised through digital tools for efficiency and efficacy.
“Energy and mobility are the twin pillars of this transformation and both require radical adaptation to meet demographic and economic growth, without increasing congestion and pollution. Infrastructure is key to making sure that everyone has access to the smart cities concept and government can help bridge this gap by making basic services and products such as data and smartphones more affordable.”
Smart can go rural
The idea of creating smart cities does not have to take place only in traditional urban areas, but can also be in rural and remote areas, where people do not have access to basic electricity or water.
There is a need for off grid and mini-grid systems so that the basic needs of electricity, running water and other services can be provided to areas that lack these services. Providing power is more than just ‘lights on’, it is a means towards economic development.
“South Africa has a need to provide low cost energy to millions of people and the concept of micro-grids, smart grids and smart cities can bring this aspiration to the populations of both rural areas and densely populated cities,” concludes Madangombe.
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