CSIR and Power Africa launch Microgrid Centre of Excellence in South Africa

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  • The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Power Africa, a US Government-led initiative coordinated by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have teamed up to launch the Microgrid Centre of Excellence (CoE) for future power systems at the CSIR to promote decentralised renewable energy solutions to address climate change and increase energy access.

The partnership is a stepping stone for the CSIR, Power Africa, and USAID to identify, develop and implement solutions that capacitate energy stakeholders with microgrid and smart grid technologies. It is intended to enable the advancement of renewable energy project development, and increased access to reliable and clean energy, in line with South Africa’s Just Energy Transition (JET) goals.

A microgrid is a self-contained grid that uses renewable energy, batteries for energy storage and generators to produce power. Microgrids can either complement the national grid or work independently from it, providing communities access to more sustainable and resilient energy supplies.

These grids rely on pragmatic, scalable, and cost-effective technology that can reduce carbon emissions and align with government priorities, including the JET. Microgrids can enhance energy security, improve the reliability of supply, and stabilise the national grid. They can be implemented for commercial, industrial, and campus customers, as well as in remote communities to support economic and enterprise development.

Speaking at the launch, CSIR Chief Executive Officer Dr Thulani Dlamini hailed this partnership as one that will advance microgrid and smart grid technologies to build future power and enhance energy capacity.

“Together with our partners, we were able to set up a real-time digital simulation laboratory to optimally support the implementation of smart grids and microgrids power generation. This facility analyses and tests microgrid technology at full power and actual load levels before implementation. This reduces the risks of deployment and helps to optimise the performance of microgrid hardware, communications and security systems. The establishment of this centre here at the CSIR will support stakeholders in seeking alternative ways to reach universal access to electricity,” said Dr Dlamini.

The Internet of Things systems, 5G connectivity, and artificial intelligence enables us to connect, monitor and manage our local renewable sources to ensure a more efficient, reliable and sustainable microgrid infrastructure.

The collaboration between Power Africa, USAID, and the CSIR to establish a CoE on microgrids, smart grid research and studies will be done in two phases.

The collaboration will assist local utilities with microgrid implementation projects, focusing on capacity-building while simultaneously understanding and finalising the scope for the establishment of the CSIR Microgrids CoE with associated smart grid laboratories and related infrastructure.

Power Africa’s Off-Grid Program spans 26 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and has resulted in over 5 million direct connections since 2018.  Power Africa is focused on accelerating microgrids through the development of supportive regulatory and policy frameworks, and works with microgrid developers to refine business models and operations, engage local communities, and ensure a strong fit between technologies deployed and the local environment.

David Thompson, Power Africa’s Acting Coordinator noted at the launch that “This initiative will provide invaluable support to energy stakeholders, enabling them to develop and implement renewable energy projects with confidence and success. We firmly believe that by working together, we can drive meaningful change and make lasting progress toward universal access to clean and reliable energy.”

The creation of a CoE for microgrids will include the deployment of real-time digital simulations and fourth industrial revolution-related technologies essential for building expertise and promoting coordinated efforts.

Author: Bryan Groenendaal


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