Vodacom signed a Virtual Wheeling agreement with Eskom that will help accelerate efforts to solve South Africa’s energy crisis through a virtual innovation that makes it easier for businesses in the country to purchase renewable energy from Independent Power Producers (IPPs).
In electric power transmission, wheeling is the transportation of electric energy from within an electrical grid to an electrical load outside the grid boundaries. Vodacom says the innovation, which it has co-created with Eskom, will help solve South Africa’s energy challenges that arise from the traditional wheeling.
Vodacom Group CEO, Shameel Joosub said, “Vodacom’s partnership with Eskom is transformational in that our virtual wheeling solution will enable South Africa’s private sector to participate in resolving the energy crisis which continues to impact the country’s economy. It also provides a blueprint for other South African corporates to adopt, as we pool our collective resources with the common objective of ending load shedding. The virtual wheeling solution has the potential to be fast-tracked, depending on the available licensed capacity of IPPs.”
Traditional wheeling typically involves a one-to-one relationship between an IPP and a buyer using the national grid to convey their energy. While the concept of traditional wheeling is a fairly common practice globally, it has certain limitations for companies with complex operating environments.
For example, Vodacom South Africa says its operating situation is unique due to the complexities associated with having over 15,000 distributed low-voltage sites across the country that are linked to 168 municipalities. Up until this point, this complexity has prevented Vodacom from accessing large-scale renewable energy from IPPs. The virtual wheeling solution addresses these challenges.
“Converting our existing fossil-fuel-based electricity supplies directly with on-site renewables is limited by technical constraints that are difficult to scale. We explored a traditional wheeling option, but this had numerous limitations, which we believed could be overcome by reimagining the problem and using technology to solve the issue,” said Joosub.
Sitho Mdlalose, CEO of Vodacom South Africa said, “Think of it like purchasing renewable energy certificates. But most importantly, it also has the added benefit of positively impacting the supply deficit currently being experienced and nurturing the growth of renewable energy production in South Africa,”
The energy crisis in South Africa has been devastating for many businesses. Vodacom South Africa says it has spent more than $212.21M on backup power solutions and $15.96M in the past financial year alone on operational costs such as diesel for generators.