Power UP: Research for an energy efficient SA #UPResearchMatters

South Africa’s national electrical grid system is under increasing strain due to aging infrastructure, insufficient maintenance and a lack of real-time monitoring.

Prof Xiaohua Xia, Prof Ramesh Bansal, Dr Raj Naidoo, Dr Michael Gitau, Dr Joel Dabrowski, Dr Xianming Ye

August 17, 0201

  • Prof Xiaohua Xia
Prof Xiaohua Xia is the director of the Centre of New Energy Systems (CNES) at the University of Pretoria. The CNES is a centre of excellence focused on energy efficiency research, service and development. It hosts the National Hub for the Postgraduate Programme in Energy Efficiency and Demand-side Management of which Prof Xia is the director, as well as the Exxaro Chair in Energy Efficiency.

Prof Xia obtained his PhD at Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 1989. He joined the University of Pretoria in 1998, and was promoted to professor in 2000. He received an A rating from the National Research Foundation. His research interests include non-linear feedback control, observer design, time-delay systems, hybrid systems, modelling and control of HIV/Aids, control and handling of heavy-haul trains and energy modelling and optimisation.
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  • Professor Raj Naidoo

Professor Raj Naidoo completed his PhD in Electrical Engineering at the University of Cape Town in 2008 and has been doing research at the University of Pretoria (UP) since 2002.

Prof Naidoo leads smart grids research at UP and works closely with other members of the Power Group, which focuses on integrating renewable energy generation such as wind or photovoltaic power into traditional grids, and reducing inefficiency and emissions. This is at all levels, from small energy sources like a home photovoltaic cell to large sources like a wind energy farm.

He says his research allows him to help solve some of the world’s energy problems. “I’m also stimulated in my quest to solve problems and challenge myself in new ways,” Prof Naidoo says. “UP has world-class researchers and infrastructure, and it is a natural alignment for me to do my research at there.”

Some of the practical applications and opportunities for his research include renewable energy integration, energy management and advanced distribution management systems. UP’s Department of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering, which Prof Naidoo heads, works closely with the South African National Energy Development Institute, Rand Water and the Department of Energy. The Department of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering has established strong ties with the local municipality of the City of Tshwane. Together with these partners, Prof Naidoo and his team are paving the way for new approaches to solving Africa’s energy crisis.

His research matters because his department is helping to make the national grid safer, more stable and more efficient, guiding the integration of sustainable energy sources and improving the data available to engineers working on the grid. “Our research is also improving energy efficiency and reducing waste in homes, buildings and factories around South Africa and Africa,” he says. Discussions aimed at collaboration with various faculties are underway.

A recent highlight for Prof Naidoo has been the pioneering of research in smart electrical asset management. “Our research involves the application of smart grid technologies to improve asset management for utilities.”

Prof Naidoo is inspired by Albert Einstein, particularly his ability to derive the theory of relativity from first principles. He also admires Tesla’s work in reshaping various sectors.

Prof Naidoo hopes to create technology that will power sustainable communities in Africa, given that electricity is a challenge for many on the continent.

To school learners or undergraduates who have an interest in solving the world’s energy crisis, he says electrical engineering is for them.

In his spare time, Prof Naidoo enjoys watching and playing football, hiking and being involved in product development.

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