Several research groups in the University of Pretoria’s Department of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering are working with industry and government to address energy-related challenges by improving energy efficiency and demand-side management (DSM). In the process, they are ensuring that renewable energy is effectively integrated into the national grid. They are also developing smart grids to provide more information to engineers and managers, from residential to industrial energy systems.

Integrating renewable energy into the national gridThe largest of these groups is the Centre of New Energy Systems (CNES), headed by Prof Xiaohua Xia, an A-rated research who focuses on energy optimisation and management. The CNES focuses particularly on energy-efficiency and DSM aspects for the national grid, as well as improving energy efficiency for various industrial processes and for buildings. The research conducted in this centre is helping to make the national grid safer, more stable and more efficient, guiding the integration of sustainable energy sources and improving the data available to engineers working on the grid.

This research is improving energy efficiency and reducing waste in homes, buildings and factories around South Africa. Some effort has also been exerted to look into sustainable and renewable energy supply, but integrating these systems into the national grid comes with its own set of challenges. DSM has ensured that South Africa’s power supply is stable, but that does not address the issue of an ageing fleet of power stations.

smart grid concept cloud computing technologySouth Africa has a promising environment for renewable energy generation. Wind and solar power are slowly being added to the mix, despite major challenges with integration. A lot of the work done in the Department of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering is directly or indirectly geared towards improving South Africa’s energy sector in one way or another. This is mostly achieved through a number of collaborations and working agreements with the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI), South Africa’s national energy research agency.

Direct efforts to address South Africa’s energy challenges include those performed by the National Hub for Postgraduate Programme in Energy Efficiency and Demand-side Management (EEDSM), which is hosted in the CNES. Research in the Centre for New Energy Systems. The energy systems work of Prof Xia and his colleagues at the CNES makes a valuable contribution to the University’s research profile.

The CNES is looking specifically at technology, equipment, operation and performance aspects for energy efficiency. It has also gained a reputation as being a premier research institute in the area of energy management, both nationally and internationally. It is the only Centre of Excellence in energy optimisation and standardisation in South Africa to address the research, education, development and industrial applications of energy optimisation and management.

The focus on energy management includes both supply-side and demand-side management. It collaborates with research centres on energy management both locally and internationally. Among other things, the CNES conducts research into improving the efficiency of industrial energy systems and buildings. It is also the major provider of measurement and verification services for Eskom and for South African municipalities, with more than 400 projects (covering approximately a third of the country) in place at one time.

The CNES hosts the Exxaro Energy Efficiency Chair. Exxaro is a coal-mining company that sponsors research into energy efficiency in the coal-mining sector. In the industrial sector, CNES works on the energy efficiency of mining equipment and factory processes like conveyor belts. It also develops new technologies for more efficient pumps and motors.

Courtesy of Professor Xiaohua Xia, University of Pretoria