7 December 2023
Today, the University of the Witwatersrand Business School (WBS) announced a ground-breaking collaboration with Absa to enable the development of a new energy modelling laboratory.
The newly formed Absa Chair in Future Energy will house the laboratory, which will model real-time impacts to energy systems and value chains of a range of factors, such as technology disruption, climate change and changes in consumption patterns. The aim is to understand, predict and adapt to changes in energy supply and consumption from multiple sources.
Speaking at the launch of the Absa Chair in Future Energy at WBS, Professor Lwazi Ngubevana, Director of the African Energy Leadership Centre (AELC), said: “WBS and the AELC are committed to finding sustainable, long-term solutions to Africa’s energy crisis. We are extremely grateful to Absa for their funding of the Chair in Future Energy. This is a significant move forward in our quest to find ways, through research and data analytics, to optimise and balance energy supply and demand for the future wellbeing of our country and continent, especially given the region’s growing population.”
The R6 million funding from Absa will be directed over the next three years towards research into future energy modelling as well as access to computing resources to perform the complex modelling required. Work has already begun on this project and the first research paper, written by Prof Ngubevana and Post-doctoral Fellow, Dr Mgcini Tshwaku, titled “Energy Forecasting Models in developed and developing countries: A literature review,” was submitted to the WIREs Energy and Environment Journal.
According to Steven Zwane, Managing Executive of Corporate Citizenship at Absa Group, the funding reinforces Absa’s commitment to being an active force for good in everything that it does. “This investment is just one of the ways in which we are contributing to finding solutions to some of our country’s major challenges. By helping to strengthen the research capacity of WBS, we are supporting the institution’s ability to enable innovation in the energy sector, which will ultimately support efforts to create jobs and grow our economy, while addressing the energy crisis,” he said.
“Absa is proud to collaborate with WBS on this initiative,” said Justin Schmidt, Head of Manufacturing, Renewable Energy, Transport and Logistics at Absa Relationship Banking. “The energy sector in South Africa and Africa is changing ever so rapidly and has significant potential to make a meaningful contribution towards job creation and economic growth. The research through WBS will assist the private and public sector to make the most of technological advancements in energy, which is key for the localisation of the sector to increase at pace.”
“Absa looks forward to using this research – not only to create more enriched value propositions for clients, but to also advance the industry as a whole and bring further growth opportunities to the country,” Schmidt added.
The benefits of the research will be a deeper understanding of the impact of technological change, regulatory lags, climate change and climate-based market intervention, and social instability on energy supply and demand. Previously, these impacts had to be modelled in isolation, which reduced the accuracy of predictions.
The findings of the research will have application for government, agencies, researchers and the private sector to help to ensure that future energy supply is more resilient, more closely aligned to customer demand, more environmentally sensitive and more cost-effective for the consumer.
“As a business school, it is vital that we add our voice to the conversation around the energy mix in South Africa. Through the AELC, we are developing a pipeline of effective leaders who can manage the sector’s multiple challenges and, now, through the Absa Chair in Future Energy, we are able to use data to help build an integrated plan for the country’s future energy mix,” says Prof Maurice Radebe, Head and Director of WBS.
The Absa Chair in Future Energy will provide numerous opportunities for post-doctoral, PhD and Master’s students at WBS to contribute to research and analysis of energy modelling. The research outputs will be made available to other African researchers working on similar problems.