Vinesh Surajlall, Director, Sub Saharan Africa, Energyst Rental Solutions South Africa (Pty) Ltd.

Temporary power generation essential for miners off the African grid.

energyst-BLOGAs a leading supplier of temporary power generation what niche does Energyst fill in the mining sector?

Vinesh Surajlall (VS): Energyst is headquartered in Holland and its shareholders include the leading global brand, Caterpillar. Energyst’s business is split into two divisions: Standard Solutions and Custom Solutions. Standard solutions use resources that are available in our daily process and systems. Custom solutions require resources and processes specific to the project. These solutions normally require more customized design, engineering and project management.

Energyst’s niche market is temporary power solutions. The company offers rental solutions from itself and from its principals, including Caterpillar. Energyst can provide a safe and reliable power supply so that mining companies can keep their mines working efficiently and cost effectively. We have a variety of flexible power solutions for our mining client as well as equipment essential for temperature control.

Has Energyst seen an increased trend towards temporary power solutions in the mining sector?

VS: The reality is that the mines in Africa are in remote locations and it could take up to 10 years for these mines to use grid power in some cases. Every year lost in mining is never a year gained. We supply interim power typically for the site from the establishment phase to the production phase until the company accesses permanent power. The other advantage of the temporary power solution is the management of capital expenditure. Companies can outsource the supply and management of their power generation needs.

As the need for increased temporary power solutions increases, so does the competition. How has Energyst been able to grow across the continent?

VS: Caterpillar has been the worlds leading manufacturer of generators and diesel engines for more than 85 years. Energyst provides 100% Caterpillar quality and reliability in its power generation products and services. As a Caterpillar Independent Power Provider (IPP), we are well positioned to provide better support for that product in Africa. Generally power providers are turnkey solution service providers, but what differentiates us is in-depth engagement with the client thereby gaining an understanding of the client’s and project’s unique requirements.

Through our collaboration model, we work closely with the Caterpillar dealers in the region on the after-sales support, so the client has support from within the region in addition to our onsite presence. We believe that systems, processes, and products are important, but our operational strategy is focused on customer intimacy.

Customer intimacy means we get close to the customer, understand his real needs, and build a solution based on these needs. As a typical example, Energyst bid on a project in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We worked closely with the client to understand his real needs, and because we had this in depth knowledge we customized our offerings. We took his logistical limitations, security risks, and financial constraints and the importance of his productivity and we designed a solution not just based on our standard products, but we also brought in other products based on his needs.

Operating in rural and remote locations across the continent poses many challenges, including the lack of skilled personnel. As a temporary entity in the area in which you operate, how does Energyst address the issue of local employment or skills development?

VS: As a temporary power provider, Energyst is present on projects that are typically two years or more. When we operate in a country, we utilize local skills or develop them within the country. This is our way of operating. Although we are only there for a limited time, when we finish the project there is a permanent power solution and the skills are transferable afterwards.

How do you foresee the temporary power industry developing in the future and where do you see Energyst’s role in these developments?

VS: We will see a huge growth in temporary power solutions, as the cost of grid power continues to increase at a phenomenal rate. We will also see diversification in the energy mix, as we move to newer fuel types including gas or hybrid but these are not typically available in the rural areas.

Energyst is targeting the mining industry. We are putting resources in place that are closer to the market and are engaging at both a grassroots level and an executive level to understand the financial and technical requirements of the client. The cost of temporary power is one element, but the ability to provide the aftermarket support for temporary power is essential. Mining operations rely on power and fuel. The cost per kilowatt-hour is not the problem. The reliability is the problem. Companies need to be aware of time required for aftermarket support of the product they are buying.

This interview was part of the research being conducted by GBR for its upcoming Mining in Africa Country Investment Guide (MACIG) 2015. To participate in this report, please contact Sharon Saylor at ssaylor@gbreports.com.

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