The Alstom Chair in Clean Energy Systems Technology (ACCEST) was inaugurated today at the University of the Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg, South Africa through a partnership, which will see Alstom investing over ZAR 17 million in various projects at the University between 2009 and 2016.
The chair will address the technology and the system of electricity generation and transmission of South Africa, recognising the need for growth and environmental sustainability.
Eleven topics have been defined grouped into three themes: Distributed electricity integration for isolated areas, wave energy electrical technologies and innovative sulphur removal adapted to South Africa, paving the way for other clean power technologies including carbon capture technologies. The students undertaking PhDs and MSc programs will have the opportunity to select projects from the topics defined. As the program of the Chair goes forward the topics can evolve organically.
The chair will contribute to the development of the next generation of clean energy engineers. These engineers will make the best use of Africa’s energy resources, design and operate clean energy systems, integrate and optimise different energy sources including renewable energy, and provide the critical knowledge relevant to South Africa.
According to a 2010 report by the Engineering Council of South Africa, “the international benchmark of an average population per engineer shows that South Africa lags behind other developing countries. In South Africa, one engineer services 3166, compared to Brazil’s 227 and Malaysia’s 543 per engineer.” These figures severely constrain the ambition of the country as it participates in the global knowledge economy and prepares to develop new systems for our green economy.
Philippe Joubert, Alstom Deputy CEO and the architect of Alstom’s Clean Power Today™ strategy, said: “Wits University is a centre for engineering excellence and Alstom is the world’s leading provider of clean, efficient and sustainable energy solutions. This partnership is therefore a unique opportunity for Alstom to contribute towards shaping South Africa’s energy future by providing unique knowledge transfer to the country’s future energy engineers.”
Speaking from the Engineering Faculty’s central courtyard, which is now known as the “Alstom Atrium”, Wits University’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Loyiso Nongxa, said: “With this Clean Energy Chair we aim to fulfill our commitment to serve the country and the region. Our capacity to alter the socio-economic conditions of the present and influence our chances for the future depends on our capacity for innovation. Strategic partnerships such as this, and the development of high level and scarce skills ensure that Wits is able to tackle the region’s energy needs and contribute to the national innovation system.”
In support of government’s strategy to address the shortage of skills required for the power industry, through its projects, Alstom is training over 800 South Africans as artisans, and professionals, including engineers.