The South African Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is working on a plan to increase local capacity to produce alternative energy products in a bid to help ease Eskom’s strained supply system.

It is also revising SA’s industrial policy framework generally, to assess the effect of limited power on energy-intensive sectors earmarked for development.

The chief director of industrial policy, Nimrod Zalk, said the department was studying the effect of the energy crisis on its industrial policy. But it was looking at a combination of the "threats, as well as opportunities the situation presents, " he said.

The opportunity to massively and rapidly increase capacities to manufacture products such as solar-panel heaters, compact fluorescent light bulbs and other energy-saving devices, in SA and the rest of the Southern African Customs Union (Sacu) region, is being explored.

Eskom has indicated that it wants to roll out as many as 200000 solar heaters a year over the next five years, to divert a significant source of demand to alternative energy sources.

Eskom has undertaken a management shake-up and set up a recovery team to steer the power utility through arguably the bleakest period in its history.

African Utility Week has become the largest annual forum for African and international experts to come together and discuss strategies as well as technical improvements to the power industry.

African Utility Week’s unique training, networking and discussion platforms will demonstrate how utilities can be more efficient and offer cost-effective services through improved infrastructure maintenance, load management, delivery and revenue management choices.

The conference has always attracted the highest level of delegates and representatives and this year, panelists and speakers will include representatives from the South African Ministry of Minerals and Energy and other ministries from across the continent. Top-level speakers from regulatory bodies, utilities and departments of enterprises and public works will also be present.

Focusing on the Why, What and How of the business of utilities in Africa, the conference has been streamlined into three distinct tracks: Generation Africa; Transmission & Distribution Africa; and Metering, Billing/CRM Africa. African Utility Week will also offer a range of extra activities besides the main conference tracks, including the Power Station Manager Award, the Prepayment Innovation Award, the power plant technical visit, a number of workshops and leading industry associations’ annual meetings.

In addition, African Utility Week will present the largest power exhibition in Africa, showcasing the latest technologies for the generation, transmission and distribution industry. The 2008 event is sponsored by Conlog, Njabulo Lighting, Urban and Rural Engineering Services, Sergi France, Siemens and Tenesol. African Utility Week is supported by a number of regional associations: the DTI, the STS Association and the South African Electro-Technical Export Council (SAEEC).

For more information, please contact Emmanuelle Nicholls: emmanuelle@spintelligent.com, tel. +27 21 700 3500, fax +27 21 700 3501 or visit the website: www.african-utility-week.com