Article by Carol Koech,
Country President, Schneider Electric East Africa
In years past, I remember how we would joke and say if you ever needed to know that the heavens would open and the rain pour down, all you needed was to wait for the power to go off. It was like clockwork; the power would almost always go off just before a heavy downpour. Since then, the country has invested heavily in the electricity grid and it’s unimaginable today to have to go more than a few hours without electricity.
We’ve made progress in upgrading our infrastructure, but in a world where everything relies on electricity – from our lights, to our computers and household appliances – even an outage of minutes can impact our lives. Can you imagine what a business would do without power for just a few hours? My favorite restaurant is known for making the best fish in town and I suspect that they’d have to throw out much of their stock if the power went out. Power blackouts aside, the rising cost of energy contributes significantly to the overall costs of a business. And I will pose the question, “how do you manage your energy in a way that is both reliable and cost effective?”
The answer is technology. Both businesses and homeowners can look at alternatives such as developing self-contained electrical networks that allow you to generate and use your own electricity on-site and use it when you need it most. Such networks, also known as microgrids, connect, monitor, and control your facility’s distributed energy resources (think solar and wind) while enhancing electrical performance, reliability and, importantly given the climate crisis we are facing, sustainably.
With a microgrid, you gain control over the energy you generate — deploying it when it’s needed most with the help of battery systems and intelligent software solutions. Microgrids are designed to be used with renewable energy sources such as solar, providing both energy savings and even an opportunity to sell the excess power you generate back to the grid.
The other reason why microgrids make sense is sustainability. You may know that over 80% of all carbon emissions are linked to energy. What many people don’t understand is that a quarter of all carbon emissions are created by energy that is lost or wasted. Reducing energy loss is possible and we can achieve significant reductions in emissions without requiring wholesale changes to our lifestyles.
This is where technology enables sustainability. There is a Peter Drucker quote which states that, “If you can’t measure it, you cannot improve it”. In the same vein, it is difficult to tackle a problem if you can’t see it. What digital technologies do is enable us to monitor the electricity performance and efficiency of our homes, offices and industries, appliance by appliance and room by room.
With today’s digital technologies, we can accelerate progress to meeting global climate change commitments with tools at our disposal today. And there is no time to waste. Now is the time to apply some urgency when it comes to the health of our planet. Digital provides a step change in how we approach, deliver, and scale our sustainability efforts. A net zero carbon future is certainly green, but it must also be digital and electric. By implementing digitization and power management methods in conjunction with the shift towards renewable energy, the impact of climate change will be mitigated.
We’ve come a long way since those rainy days when our power would go out for hours on end. And we’ve made progress in how electricity is supplied to us. We’re now at a turning point, and we all can become electricity ‘prosumers’, able to generate our own power from our God-given resources. Imagine the cost savings you’d realize by producing your own power and knowing that this power is reliable and available. And there’s also the realization that the power you are generating is green and will benefit the lives of our children and future generations. Microgrids can be built around artificial intelligence, which can predict any threats to the grid such as incoming storms or other disruptions and switch where your power comes from. Given all of these developments in how we can produce and manage electricity by ourselves, the question I must ask everyone is what are you doing to weather your electrical needs?