Electric equipment supplier Zest WEG Group aims to grow its KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) operation by tapping into the alternative power generation sector created by the province’s key, distilleries, pulp and paper and sugar industries amongst others.
The largest scope of supply in the KZN region includes subsidiary IMS Cape’s diesel generator sets, which are supplied mainly to the sugar, pulp and paper and municipal industries, as well as subsidiary Zest Energy’s provision of alternative power solutions for cogeneration.
Cogeneration is the production of electricity from steam, heat, biomass or other energy sources as a by-product of another industrial process.
The cogeneration market has been limited, to date, as most projects are still in their early stages, but through Zest Energy and the knowledge Zest WEG Group has acquired from parent company WEG, in Brazil, it aims to bring a new dimension to the alternative power generation sector in South Africa, says Zest WEG Group KZN regional manager Hilton Fortmann.
When WEG acquired Zest in 2010, it brought with it alternative energy knowledge and technology from Brazil to the African, South African and global markets.
Fortmann notes that there is an increasing need for power in South Africa, which is evident in the tightened power supply and fast-rising demand that nearly crippled power utility Eskom’s energy grid last year.
He adds that South Africa is a mirror of the energy crisis that hit Brazil in 2001, which forced that country to look at alternative ways of producing power.
To mitigate the problem, alternative power had to be produced in the shortest period possible to reduce energy use from the grid, while power stations and supporting infrastructure were being built.
It was noted that the quickest and easiest way to assist with the energy crisis in Brazil had been to focus on industries, such as the pulp and paper and sugar industries, which produce biomass from its operations and can be used as an alternative energy-producing fuel.
Further, by signing power purchase agreements with power utilities to sell electricity back to the grid and by providing incentives to companies to invest in alternative power initiatives, the power problem was overcome.
“South Africa is realising the benefit of these alternative power initiatives and moving towards implementing these through the pulp and paper and sugar industries,” says Fortmann.
In the past, Zest had been unable to provide a full energy solution, but with WEG’s offering, it is now able to position its KZN operation as a turnkey solution provider in this sector with the bouquet of products that Zest WEG has acquired.
According to Fortmann, Zest WEG’s extensive stockholding, its standards-approved products and efficient service at the Durban and Richards Bay branches have assisted in increasing the company’s market share, positioning it as a significant electrical equipment supplier within the province.
The initial product profile at the Durban and Richards Bay outlets included electrical motor supplies, with the later introduction of WEG variable speed drives, WEG soft starters, WEG power transformers and the WEG switchgear range.
The KZN branch’s main focus is to maintain and grow the Zest WEG group of companies, while expanding its portfolio of customers, particularly those in the sugar industry in KZN, says Fortmann.
“A large portion of the sugar industry is based in Durban and our goal is to expand and amalgamate our range of products and services to offer turnkey solutions in line with this industry, enabling the company to move to the next level in offering all WEG electronic components, electrical products, power transformers with Shaw Control MCC’s, IMS generators, Zest Energy co-generation and hydro electric energy packages with an E&I electrical installation solution, all under one Group umbrella and one dedicated project management structure.
Energy Initiative It is common knowledge that there is an energy problem in South Africa, with many industries using energy-intensive electric products, says Fortmann.
As a result, Zest WEG Group have initiatives in place to educate its customers on saving energy by installing, where relevant, energy efficient electrical motors. “We offer our customers high-efficiency products, such as the IE2 and IE3 electric motors and variable speed drives to reduce the ever-increasing energy costs incurred by heavy industry,” says Fortmann.
Further, Zest WEG can perform energy audits and implement higher efficiency products for certain applications in industry, to reduce energy consumption and reduce the cost of doing business.
Training Zest WEG Group focuses on offering training throughout the entire group of companies, with training undertaken at its local training hub, at the company’s head office in Johannesburg.
The company also offers training at various Zest WEG Group branches, including those outside of South Africa, enabling customers in every province to participate in the training initiative, which has helped to grow and sustain the business.
Training branches, which offer both theory and practical training modules, are fully equipped and have a qualified national training officer.
The modules are offered to engineers, as each module carries continuing professional development points, as well as to customers expanding their knowledge on the products. Training modules are approved by the relevant Sector Education and Training Authority, the Engineering Council of South Africa and the South African Institute of Electrical Engineers.
By: Chantelle Kotze (Features Reporter)