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Caterpillar positioned to champion generator market growth

A cat technician walking amongst the gensets at the Wentworth power plant in Tanzania. (Image source: Cat)

With generator set demand continuing to grow in Africa, Carl Emery, regional sales manager for Europe, Africa and Middle East for Caterpillar Electric Power, describes what key industries are driving equipment sales and how the company is updating products to meet modern customer requirements

African Review (AR): What are your top selling diesel generator products in Africa currently?

Carl Emery (CE): Economic development is growing across numerous sectors in Africa, so we’re seeing demand for diesel generator sets throughout the full range of power nodes.

In the larger range, Cat 3500 series generator sets, which offer 1250 to 3500 kVA, are popular building blocks for powering larger applications, with a particular focus on the 1500 and 2000 kVA power nodes for data centres, hospitals, manufacturing and other industrial applications.

In the smaller range, the expansion of mobile telecommunications across remote regions without access to the grid is driving demand for Cat generator sets offering 22 to 65 kVA of prime power.

There is a growing need for standby products as the grid matures in Africa, and the Cat GC range of generators helps customers find a cost-effective solution supported fully by Cat dealers.

On the rental side, reliable utility power is a tremendous need across Africa, and gaps in the energy infrastructure are driving growth for temporary power solutions, especially rental power solutions. Cat dealers have a modern fleet of rental power solutions, with a focus on short-term opportunities starting at 200 kVA as well as larger projects from 5 to 15 MVA. They also offer flexibility through short- and long-term rental solutions along with rent-to-own options for diesel, gas and hybrid systems.

In addition, the network of Cat dealers across Africa, provide reliable power and customer uptime through advanced technologies that can be customized to the specific needs of a given application, expert technical support through round-the-clock service and maintenance, and genuine Cat parts.

AR: Are there any particular industries or regions that are driving sales?

CE: From an industry perspective, data centres are driving sales in the larger product range, due to the evolution of digital business services, rapidly accelerating mobile data consumption, and the expansion of the tech sector across the continent. The increasing prevalence of big data in Africa is why Caterpillar recently joined the Africa Data Centres Association (ADCA).

With the spread of mobile telecom towers across remote areas without access to the grid, reliable generator sets from 22 to 65 kVA are needed to supply prime power. Telecommunications providers have begun to deploy these generator sets in microgrids that also incorporate renewable power generation and lithium-ion energy storage to reduce total cost of ownership as well as fuel consumption and the associated greenhouse gas emissions.

In mining, Africa is a major producer of many key mineral commodities, with bountiful reserves of metals and minerals such as gold, diamond, cobalt, bauxite, iron ore, coal, and copper across the continent. The mining industry is one of the main end users of stationary and rental solutions for prime power in Africa.

One trend that’s driving diesel generator set demand is utilities’ use of distributed generation to address the gap in supply. Strategically located, multi-MVA power systems can be used to address voltage and frequency regulation, as well as peak shaving. They can also be deployed through power purchase agreements that enable clients to expand capacity without owning or being responsible for maintaining assets.

From a regional perspective, Nigeria and the rest of West Africa have traditionally been top markets for generator set consumption. Demand in South Africa for prime power offered in installed and rental solutions is increasing due to local utility load shedding.

AR: Are there any specific trends that are influencing generator design and how are you taking this on board in your own products?

CE: With the growing prime power need in these markets, customers value Caterpillar’s best-in-class life cycle cost proposition. Cat generator sets have traditionally been known for their reliability, durability, and reduced lifecycle costs, and African customers who value total cost of ownership are taking the performance of Cat diesel generator sets to the next level through connectivity and data analytics.

Cat generator sets equipped with remote asset monitoring hardware offer sophisticated data analysis capabilities that enable Caterpillar and Cat dealers to track performance, identify potential issues through predictive analytics, and provide the information needed for service and maintenance that will extend the return on their investment. This intelligence is especially important for units operating in remote regions where technician deployment and parts delivery are more challenging.

Remote asset monitoring is one element of Caterpillar’s broader condition monitoring capabilities, which evaluates generator set operational data to help owners take a proactive approach to planning maintenance, component replacement and repairs.

Additionally, a strong parts and service offering is crucial in enabling customers to get the best return on their investment in Cat generator sets. Expert Cat dealer technicians offer timely support and operational tips that keep power solutions running reliably and efficiently for the long run.

AR: How are you expecting the market to develop in the years ahead and how are you planning for this?

CE: Africa shows positive signs of continued, sustained growth, and together with our dealers, we are committed to contributing to Africa’s success. In fact, the Caterpillar Foundation has invested US$77mn in 24 African countries since 2010, focusing on sustainable infrastructure, access to basic services, workforce readiness and STEM education.

As the African infrastructure continues to expand, Caterpillar is well positioned with a wide portfolio and specific industry expertise in mining, data centres, manufacturing, hospitals and health care, and utilities.

As sustainability initiatives develop across the continent, Caterpillar can help customers achieve their goals through numerous strategies, since one size does not fit all when it comes to power solutions. Caterpillar’s approach includes advanced technologies such as Cat Dynamic Gas Blending (DGB) enabling diesel engines to operate with varying degrees of diesel and gaseous fuels simultaneously; support for renewable fuels such as biodiesel and hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO); and hybrid microgrids integrating generator sets, renewable energy sources – solar, wind, and hydropower – and lithium-ion energy storage.

Have your say!

African Review is seeking to expand its coverage of the generator market ahead of its forthcoming Buyers’ Guide. If you are active in this sector and are seeking to expand your footprint, or if you have story/opinion that you think should be heard by the community, reach out to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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