Innovative technologies drive efficient sustainability economically and business profitability in every economic sector.
Businesses have been integrating technologies into their different processes to streamline operations, boost productivity and offer a better experience to stakeholders.
Hence, the global hydropower industry is facing fundamental shifts in its operation, maintenance and distribution of power.
Case studies shows that digitisation is taking a key role, allowing hydropower generation to support the increasing penetration of intermittent renewable energy such as wind power and solar photovoltaic.
With the pressure to cut carbon emissions, methods must be found to manage the increasing gig watts of unpredictable, weather-dependent renewable energy flowing on to power grids.
There is a global demand for clean, affordable, reliable energy – and artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly being used to help meet this need.
By employing AI, consumers can now work out how much energy their home appliances consume.
For instance, UK startup Verv, uses AI to find the “fingerprint” of each appliance, using data from electricity meter.
In the world view, leading Italian company company Enel Green Power (EGP) employ Internet of Things (IoT) technology in its Wireless Sensors for Hydro Monitoring (WISY) project. WISY is a ‘dense’ network of wireless sensors that collect and analyse information in real time.
Unlike some other parts of the world, where technology is being fully deployed to redefine operations, Africa still faces enormous challenges in its energy sector.
These challenges include, an inefficiently low generation capacity, high costs, unstable and unreliable energy supplies, low access to modern energy sources, dilapidated and insufficient energy infrastructure.
With innovative technologies, Africa can have a wide range of application in all stages of hydroelectric projects, from design and construction, using digital simulation tools; for operation and maintenance, incorporating tools such as machine learning through remote monitoring of the condition of the assets.
According to GE Power 2018, digitalisation and smart technology are seen as innovative solutions to address Africa’s hydropower issues.
Innovative technology is expected to drive the transformation of the African energy sector as new opportunities are emerging to help carry efficient, affordable and reliable electricity to consumers.
Smart decentralised grids for instance can help develop Africa’s energy capabilities while ensuring energy security.
Presently, hydropower makes up 74 percent of the world’s total renewable electricity generation and 16% of the world’s electricity is generated by hydropower.
There’s a fact that the current capacity of hydropower could be tripled if all technological innovations are harnessed, generating around 15,000 TWh per year.
Technologies that come with Intelligent Maintenance give room for constant data measurement and analysis of hydroelectric plants. And also, helping to identify deviations in the parameters of plants long before any fault occurs.
Through the term, ‘Digital twins‘ – there’s possibility of creating a virtual model of hydroelectric plants in real time through artificial intelligence, mathematical models, and measurement of operation parameters of plant including hydrology measurements upstream and downstream.
One of the key aspects of hydroelectric power plants especially in Africa is their acceptability, given their potential environmental and social impacts, the use of innovative technology like augmented reality can help create effective communication and interaction among energy stakeholder.
Industry data shows that access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa is only about 31 percent of the population with about 14 percent electrification rates in the rural areas, while about 80 percent of the Sub-Saharan African population depends on biomass energy.
The General Electric (GE) estimates that deployment of technology in the hydropower sector could reduce carbon emissions by 17 metric tonnes (mt) while increasing output by just 1% which could lead to $5bn in operation cost savings.
Embracing this technology could make hydropower smarter, more efficient, and lead to further financial and carbon savings.
There’s a need to employ innovative technologies toward digitising the African hydropower sector. Technology upgrades that can fix known vulnerabilities, also conforming to best international standards.
Hence, I believe that it is necessary for organizations to define a tailored strategy to address the incorporation of innovative digitalisation, to experience progress in this digital age, geometrically.
The African Hydropower Forum 2020 will looks to offer a common ground for African hydropower experts, industry players and stakeholders on how to fully integrate technology into their operations.
It will explore how technology can redefine African hydropower sector to suit international standard that will modernised operations and improve productivity.
The engaging forum comes up at the Radisson Blu Le Vendome Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa on the 21st – 22nd April, 2020. It will feature panel sessions, and top-notch case study presentations on the importance of applying innovative technology into African hydropower sector.
The event is designed to show the best way to modernised African current infrastructure, incorporate new tools and develop technical capabilities to take advantage of all the opportunities of this technology revolution.
It will seeks to show industry leaders how digitization has become a powerful tool to improve management and decision making processes in organizations that can manage hydroelectric plants, helping to optimize water resource.