Five-nation event focuses on energy for the future

July 26th, 2018, Published in Articles: EE Publishers, Articles: Energize

At a time when the international energy sector is discussing new low-cost, generation technologies based on clean, sustainable sources of primary energy, some BRICS member countries are negotiating loans to build old-fashioned, dirty, coal-fired power stations.

Using the theme “Energy Transition 4.0”, the 2018 BRICS Business Council’s Energy Event 2018, which was held at the IDC’s conference centre in Sandton recently, discussed how the so-called “Fourth Industrial Revolution” (hence the number 4.0 in the title) will affect and bring change to the energy sector.

About 500 energy leaders, experts, energy companies, investors, government officials, academics and NGOs from BRICS countries, and other African countries gathered to discuss important matters such as what the energy transition will mean in the sub-Saharan context; the role of centralised generation in future electric utilities; identifying the customer of the future; and lessons companies can learn from other BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

The event provided a platform for debate, innovation and action, with an opportunity for decision makers, investors and developers to network and move energy projects forward.

Energy systems are not new to transition, however one of the key aspects of the current energy transition is the large scale, global shifts at a technological, social, environmental, policy and economic level.

The latest developments in electricity generation include the rapid growth of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and gas at utility-scale. Large, monolithic, centralised coal-fired power stations are destined to be phased out as the new age demands electricity generation from clean, sustainable sources close to the point of load.

It is therefore ironic that at the same time, Eskom signed a loan agreement with the China Development Bank, to the value of US$2,5-billion, to assist in the completion of the utility’s new 4800 MW Kusile coal-fired power station in rural Mpumalanga.

We are also already enjoying the benefits associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution: artificial intelligence, robotics, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, and quantum computation.  The energy transition is happening at the same time and together these two megatrends are likely to result in a very different way of life for future generations.

Brian Dames

In his key note address, Brian Dames, the chairperson of BRICS’ South African Energy and Green Economy Working Group said that the energy transition will bring about a fundamental shift in our world and will result in the biggest change the energy sector has seen since it decided between alternating and direct current.

BRICS nations have been amongst the leaders in this global energy transition, not only driven by the imperative of adaptation to a more sustainable energy path, but also recognising the commercial opportunities of the sunrise industries associated with Industry 4.0, as well as the developmental imperatives of providing energy access to their citizens.

According to Stavros Nicolaou, a senior executive of the South African BRICS Business Council, the BRICS Business Forum was established to encourage investment and cooperation between BRICS businesses. The success of this event demonstrated the interest that exists between this five-nation cluster.