With sustainability at the heart of its business, Hitachi ABB Power Grids is committed to accelerating South Africa’s energy transition towards a carbon-neutral future, writes Malvin Naicker, MD, Hitachi ABB Power Grids.


The government’s announcement of an increase in the threshold for generation licence exemptions for embedded generation projects from 1MW to 100MW is likely to result in an uptick of innovative new technologies in South Africa’s energy sector. This effectively opens the door for Independent Power Producers (IPPs) to ramp up their power generation capacity to alleviate the electricity supply constraints that continue to affect the residential, commercial and industrial sectors.

In terms of IPPs that focus on renewable energy, microgrid solutions with battery energy storage systems (BESS) are ideal to ensure stable and sustainable power by harnessing solar energy and also a powerful model for a clean-energy future. Even though coal continues to play a dominant role in South Africa’s power generation, the country can still leverage the massive opportunity of distributed energy resources.

What this means, and we see it happening in South Africa at present, is the wholesale transformation of the energy system, encompassing generation, transmission, storage, monitoring and control. As renewables ultimately replace fossil fuels, power grids must remain resilient and become even more flexible to adapt to fast-changing demands.

While solar energy remains a relatively small portion of overall sustainable power generation, it is the world’s fastest-growing energy source. However, delivering on the potential of utility-scale solar energy presents significant challenges, from integration with the grid to deployment and utilisation of storage, to asset and operations management, generation and revenue forecasting and predictability, and the ever-increasing cost pressures and fast-track project cycles.

Hitachi ABB Power Grids has industry-leading expertise and an expansive portfolio of technologies, solutions, software and services designed to support every stage of renewable project development. With over 130 years’ engineering know-how in the power and industrial sector, we probably have the largest installed fleet of components and systems in the space of power systems for electric utilities and large industries.

Some of the world-leading technologies and services available from Hitachi ABB Power Grids include the following:

Lumada asset and work management

Among the first joint offerings announced earlier this year by Hitachi ABB Power Grids and Hitachi Vantara are Lumada Asset Performance Management (APM), Lumada Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) and Lumada Field Service Management (FSM). This asset and work management software portfolio enables energy companies to be more adaptive, collaborative, insightful and predictive.

We’ve combined our deep domain expertise with Hitachi’s leading Lumada digital ecosystem, as well as the domain and services expertise of Hitachi Vantara, to guide customers in using technology to transform their business. Lumada features technologies such as machine learning, AI, advanced data analytics, hybrid cloud management and cybersecurity. Our asset and work management offering directly addresses the evolving needs of power producers to drive improved business efficiencies and bottom-line results.

Energy portfolio management

Our Energy Markets Group provides a comprehensive offering of information, advisory and software applications to support energy market participants and operators in the assessment of infrastructure investments such as new power generation projects, as well as providing them with critical information and systems to support energy operations.

Our Velocity Suite product helps with greenfield project siting and interconnection and business development; our Reference Case supports asset valuation and merchant exposure which helps secure Purchase Power Agreements (PPA) and financing; our Nodal Reference Case helps with basis risk, which is key in PPA negotiations.

Also, with the emergence of new renewable IPPs, in addition to national utility Eskom, along with a potentially larger role for other suppliers, transactions in the wholesale market may increase. This may include PPA contracts to offtakers, but also other bilateral and cross-border transactions. As a result, risk comes into play. To successfully navigate this, an energy trading and risk management (ETRM) system can be employed and over time, may prove necessary for managing and optimising wholesale energy market positions and risks in an evolving market such as South Africa.

Microgrids and energy storage

We are creating technologies to support all steps in the energy transition. This isn’t something we can debate or delay. The challenge is so big that there is no room for picking winners—we need many sustainable solutions working in parallel.

One solution to address some power grid infrastructure challenges are microgrids and energy storage solutions suited to an array of applications, including peak shaving, capacity firming, uninterrupted power supply and spinning reserve.

These optimised systems allow for fast response times to bridge variations in demand and supply, help to maintain grid stability and ensure reliable and high-quality energy supply to support the creation of a stronger, smarter and greener grid.

Power quality solutions

The changing landscape of the energy system requires a stable and efficient power network and many different innovative solutions. Power quality solutions developed by Hitachi ABB Power Grids like capacitor and filter banks, stepless reactive power compensators and active filters address various issues like harmonics, low power factor, load imbalance and voltage variations that can cause energy losses and power interruptions. Static Compensation (STATCOM) is part of a suite of grid and power quality technologies developed by Hitachi ABB Power Grids to boost the transmission capacity and stability of the grid on a larger scale and increase the quality of existing and new AC power systems.

High-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission

HVDC technology is used to transmit electricity over long distances by overhead transmission lines or submarine cables. HVDC transmission offers, for instance, controlability and low total investment cost compared to AC solutions for long-range transmission.

Transformer solutions

Transformer performance and quality has a major impact on the availability of power generation and the reliability of the network. Hitachi ABB Power Grids offers a complete portfolio of ‘fit-for-purpose’ transformers, 100% tailored solutions designed specifically for renewable applications, including solar inverter transformers and step-up collector transformers, in addition to a full portfolio of digital transformer solutions, to increase system reliability while lowering environmental impact and reducing lifecycle costs.

Together with our customers and partners, Hitachi ABB Power Grids is committed to accelerating South Africa’s energy transition towards a carbon-neutral future. We have placed sustainability at the heart of our business because clean energy generation, network infrastructure and electrification of end-user sectors are crucial to decarbonisation strategies.

Sustainability 2030 is our strategic plan for sustainability, which draws from the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and is focused on: Planet, People, Peace and Partnerships. As the partner of choice for a sustainable energy future, we are pioneering digital and energy platforms to help customers to overcome complexity, increase efficiency and accelerate the shift towards a carbon-neutral energy future.

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