Passion for the African Power Sector
Francois Pienaar, Business Development Manager, Africa and Asia
As a dual South African and Irish citizen, I have a passion for the African power market and am extremely proud of the work that ESB International has completed on numerous projects in Africa over the past 25 years. I joined ESB International in 2002 and have worked in a variety of roles in the company in various locations but I have a real passion for the work we carried out in east and west Africa and in particular, Tanzania, Ghana and Liberia. I have worked in several strategic management roles for ESB International including acting as technical advisor to the Electricity Company of Ghana and with the ESB International executive team managing the Liberia Electricity Corporation.
ESB International has completed over 80 projects in Africa to date - across various sectors of the electricity supply chain. Our ultimate goal as a leading global engineering consultancy is to help our customers minimise project risks, optimise the commercial aspects of their power assets for the benefit of the region and, above all, make a real difference to the lives of people of Africa through the benefits of electricity.
ESB Internationals parent company, Electricity Supply Board of Ireland (ESB), was established in 1927. Since then, ESB has brought electricity to Ireland's major towns and cities and this revolutionary transformation has underpinned the country’s economic and social change from a largely underdeveloped rural nation, to one of the most successful economies in the world.ESB International continues to draw on this experience for the benefit of clients globally.
Our corporate and cultural experience of being part of a government-owned utility is appealing to many clients, particularly in Africa where the model is common. ESB International is in a unique position to be able to relate to the issues our clients face as well as having access to in-house utility specialists. Formed in 1975, ESB International has brought the company’s expertise, skills and leadership to help energy companies and developers unlock the value in projects in over 120 countries to date.
As part of our business development strategy we are continuing our focus on Africa and South East Asia, where we primarily concentrate on transmission and distribution projects, utility management and related low carbon energy projects.
Our extensive experience in these regions give us the expertise required to navigating through any challenges and opportunities that present themselves. Our experience has been brought to the fore in countries such as Tanzania, Ghana, Liberia, Kenya, Zambia and South Africa where we have already made significant contributions to the development of the power sector.
This impact is aptly demonstrated in our work in Liberia where an ESB International executive team is currently managing the Liberia Electricity Corporation. Our work to date on this vital project for the country has included setting up and managing a Revenue Protection Unit to increase revenue and reduce losses, working with local staff to introduce new policies, corporate governance and departmental processes, as well as creating a detailed financial forecasting and modelling tools.
Ghana and Kenya are also examples where we have carried out utility work to match increased degrees of modernisation, including the introduction of a more sophisticated infrastructure market and reforming and changing the current utility.
Our influence in the power sector can also be seen in Tanzania and Zambia where to date we have largely focused on transmission and distribution work – large capital projects where there is the requirement for supervisory services. Both countries will be going through extensive reforms in the future, from unbundling to improving utility efficiency, to financial sustainability and our experience as a utility is invaluable in this area.
Soon, partly due to Covid 19, more funding will be made available from International Finance Institutions (IFI’s), such as the World Bank, for utility reforms. As economies start to recover, we expect to see IFIs increase funding for reforms which the private sector won’t finance and new models of Private Sector Participation (PSP) that will become the norm. There will also be an increased focus on renewable generation and most importantly the managing of renewables on the network and here ESB International has vast experience having undergone the transition in its home market.
We manage utilities on behalf of IFI’s to meet specific targets and Key Performance Indicators such as increasing the financial viability of utilities, increasing revenue, reducing losses due to energy theft, restructuring the utility and increasing access to power.
ESB International has a reputation of getting on and doing the job, delivering the project on time and of meeting the KPIs and objectives whilst focusing on knowledge transfer and utilising local resources. We don’t compromise on our key values of maintaining our high safety standards, delivering what the client wants and what is right for the project, while always adopting a partnership approach in everything we do.
Adapting to a changing world
As with all markets and businesses, there are challenging and uncertain times ahead due to Covid 19 restrictions. This has required us, like many, to adapt to new ways of working. The key for us is our ability to draw on our 90 years of experience to address this and any other challenge by looking at new and innovative ways to deliver on projects for our clients.
Outside of Covid 19 there are many other changes to our industry coming down the line. Data centres are a big opportunity for many regions around the world and Africa is no exception. Kenya and Ghana have the infrastructure, a very well qualified workforces and in these countries, we are likely to see an explosion in data centres. But power supply to data is quite challenging, and some utilities will just not be able to provide the quality required. ESB has the experience and a proven track record working with companies in that space in Ireland and are well equipped to provide strategic advisory on this in Africa.
Renewable energy generation and transmission will be another focus for ESB International in the future. ESB’s Brighter Future strategy aims to lead the sector in the transition to a low-carbon energy future, based on clean, reliable, affordable electricity. The company’s knowledge and expertise places ESB International in a prime position to help countries and utilities globally to address the urgent challenge of achieving lower carbon emissions. We have extensive experience in wind, solar, hydro, biomass and waste to energy both in Ireland and internationally and can apply this experience for the benefit of the countries in which we operate, using our knowledge to assist them on their own energy journey.
In this ever changing world, ESB International has to be agile and flexible and our strategy into the future will be to continue to concentrate on key projects where we deliver excellent result focussed services, on time and on budget which will bring the most benefit to our clients and the countries in which they operate.
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