University of Pretoria: Enterprises UP Smart Grid Programme aims to move SA energy industry forward

About 50 years ago, advancements in power engineering were slow. It was all standard practice when it came to transformers and transmission lines, and communication technology was not as developed. Fast-forward 50 years more, and we are now witnessing tremendous growth in the energy industry.

The University of Pretoria (UP) is playing its part in that advancement. Through its Smart Grid Programme, the Power group of UP’s Department of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering, in partnership with Enterprises UP, is looking to pave the way for new approaches to solving Africa’s energy crisis.

The programme is being carried out in collaboration with the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI) and the national Department of Energy.

Smart Grid is one of SANEDI’s flagship programmes, and is aligned with the Department of Energy’s strategic objectives. The programme is dedicated to conducting applied research projects to test and deploy various smart grid concepts within the South African electricity distribution industry.

“Smart Grid is about merging communication technologies with traditional electrical infrastructure to build a better way of doing things,” said Professor Raj Naidoo, Head of the Department of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering. “When you start implementing smart grid technology, you have to put in place new processes and train people in new ways so they can do their jobs efficiently. Otherwise, you will have very intelligent systems but no abilities to put them to use.”

To this end, the University, in association with Enterprises UP, designed a programme that includes curriculum development to provide the sector with the necessary skills.

“We’re now training students in areas that are critical to the sector, such as smart metering and distributed generation, and this is where the industry is headed,” Prof Naidoo explained. “Students gain practical experience that will enable them to put their skills to work in moving the economy forward.”

In terms of smart metering, the training programme teaches students to ensure that municipalities are properly advised on roll-out strategies and required skills, that they understand hardware requirements – including specifications, meter data management system and meter hardware – and comply with Department of Trade, Industry and Competition requirements.

The Power group’s service capabilities include:

Smart cities and smart grids
Green economy and hydrogen
Product design and development – expertise in hardware and embedded software design, and customised product development
Remote diagnostics – field measurements and data acquisition: we can gather key information relevant to a client project, including power, energy, temperature, pressure, etc. We log, store, display and export the data for clients.
Training – we offer the development of short courses specific to client requirements. This incorporates curriculum development and the presentation of short courses.
Design and optimisation of renewable energy systems (including microgrids)
Protection system design
Project-based research and reporting

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