SAIMechE John Orr Lecture 2015: The Power Sector – A mature Industry in its Infancy

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Technical Lecture
11 November 2015 17:30 - 20:30
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The century old operating model of which has served modern economies so well, and which has enabled an unprecedented acceleration in technological developments, is on the brink of radical change. This change, driven by economic, technological, environmental, ideological and behavioural factors, has the potential to herald a new energy era for future generations. It also has the potential to create disruptions to systems and infrastructure which can be immensely damaging to economies and societies. As such there is no time more critical than the present to look beyond the immediate problems dogging the South African Power sector and prepare for a future very different to that currently planned for.


It is time for us to think differently about our power sector and to bring the inherent innovation that is in all of us into play. In this sector each challenge, taken in isolation, is enormously daunting. Collectively the challenges can be contradictory and seemingly overwhelming, but they can be overcome.

The South African power sector has a long and proud history of innovation. Our nation brought large scale dry cooling to the world. We led the game in the use of high altitude, high voltage transmission infrastructure and at one stage our electrification programme was the biggest and most effective in the world. We continue to show that we can innovate with the world’s largest dry cooled power stations, Medupi and Kusile, a leading conservation effort at Ingula and some of the world’s most successful renewable energy and energy efficiency programmes.

In rising to the challenge of growing our economy beyond current projections, we need to consider the opportunities facing us. In addition to the obvious ones inherent in the current investment programme, we need to be aware that the power sector’s technological base is on the brink of a fundamental change. It is clear that the conventional utility business model will change dramatically over the next 20 to 50 years. This will in turn force a rethink of how the legacy system should managed in order to use this change to position South Africa as a globally competitive nation energised by a modern and sustainable energy system. We need to prepare for this future as we grow our economy. This presentation will look into these opportunities in the context of our plans and the drive to achieving sustainability in the power sector.

Live webcast and Local Screenings

The Lecture will be streamed live via video web streaming for viewing by anyone on a PC, laptop or mobile device as well as a decent internet connection.

We are also providing local screenings whereby the Lecture will be projected onto a big screen for audiences at various centres throughout the country, together with other social activities (i.e. eating, drinking and chatting). 
More details


Dr Steve Lennon is a qualified scientist and engineer, with a primary degree in Chemistry and a Masters and Doctorate degree in Materials engineering.Steve is currently Managing Director of a specialist energy, sustainability and strategy advisory service and investment holdings company


University of Witwatersrand
Senate room 2nd floor
Senate House
South Africa

Contact Details

Geoff Cobb

Email: Send a message

Alternative contact Derrick Craig
+27 011 361 1300South Africa
Email: Send a message

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