Water and Electricity – The lifeline of any society! Both at the heart of economic growth and social well-being. Inefficiencies to the operations of water and electricity can lead to various issues, such as reduced productivity, employment and business opportunities, and disrupted health and economic growth. Without this infrastructure, economies would be at a standstill.
The efficient and steady supply of water and electricity is an imperative for the development, maintenance, and preservation of well-functioning societies. This is applicable to all areas of a working economy that includes both the production and services sector. They both play a fundamental role in food production, healthy ecosystems and for human survival itself. These resources at the heart of adaptation to climate change, serving as the crucial link between society and the environment.
Recently, the city of Johannesburg has been hit by drastic water and power outages, with blackouts at the heart of the crisis, caused by aging and poorly maintained facilities and underbudgeting for infrastructure updates. This has caused damaging effects to the city’s hospitals and manufacturing facilities. As a city that’s perfectly poised to entice global business; Johannesburg must do some work to get the basics right.
This month, Johannesburg water reported a R2.3 billion backlog to replace aging water infrastructure over the next 10 years. In September, the city recorded its 100th day of power cuts this year alone and has exceeded that figure since. The overall infrastructure backlog is R300 billion, with a capital budget of only R7.7 billion to resolve these issues.
Right now, the focus needs to be on innovative solves that are unique to the city’s challenges. A move to more sustainable and decentralized energy systems can support service delivery to all citizens of Johannesburg and is a viable solution for the long-term. If you look anywhere in the world, whatever people do that makes them human is powered by electricity, hence reliable supply is vital. Development relies on humanly connected services. Right now, there’s a dire need for efficient energy supply.
Distributed energy systems (DES) solutions are the next step in renewable energy. They comprise small networks of people, businesses and public services, hooked up to an independent power source, that could be part-solar or wind. It is a game changer for SME’s as it will improve availability of electricity for their business ventures. Our pilot involved the installation of a microgrid at our Midrand Headquarters. This has reduced the use of utility supplied energy by 50%, saving 2 435 000 kWh, which equates to 174 000 kWh per month – approximately the equivalent of the energy used by 50 average South African households annually.
Ours is a proven solution that can help save energy, cut costs, lower carbon emissions and ensure uninterrupted power. Everything from installation to operating costs have been tracked to present a realistic case study for the local context, and the results to date are convincing. At Siemens, we are leading by example through our commitment to turn our operations carbon neutral by 2030. We believe companies need to play a pioneering role in driving this change.
Collaborative efforts between all spheres of government and private institutions are needed to ensure a stable water supply. Johannesburg’s water treatment sector has the collective knowledge, technology and capacity to solve the country’s water and wastewater treatment crisis and solutions to these challenges are readily available within the country. To address the situation, a great deal of work must be done on maintenance and storage capacity must be upgraded and increased.
Siemens recognizes the importance of this valuable resource on our planet. With our company’s expertise, we enable the water industry to get the most from digitalization. The intelligent applications like the Siemens Water (SIWA), which are specifically developed for water and waste-water industry operators can optimize energy efficiency, avoid water loss and reduce contamination of water bodies and take predictive maintenance measures.
Going forward, we’re likely to see more renewable and hybrid energy solutions at play. Ultimately, the aim will continue to be achieving carbon neutrality through smart sustainability measures that are intelligently introduced to protect people as well as the planet. A ‘just’ energy approach is imperative to preserve and create jobs, while making the transition.
Achieving efficient water and energy is possible, with the right partnerships, the right knowledge and expertise. By working with the private sector, local and national governments can leverage the knowledge and the proficiency of the private sector and can improve infrastructure delivery and maintenance.