Transformer equipment is becoming increasingly important as a means to relieve South Africa's electricity crisis. End users are looking to capitalize on local resources such as robust manufacturing capabilities, competition-induced transformer prices, engineering expertise and experience in the respective end-user segments.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, South African Transformer Market, finds that the market earned revenues of over $1.1 billion in 2007 and estimates this to reach $2.2 billion in 2014.

"The South African transformer market will continue to remain robust until 2014," says Frost & Sullivan Industry Analyst Jeannot Boussougouth. "The power transformer segment, which earned 80 percent of the total market revenues in 2007, will remain the key segment."

A combination of significant investments into the expansion of the country's generation capacities, increasing replacement demand, the growth of the South African mineral industry and rural electrification programs is expected to keep the South African transformer market bullish in the long term.

Expansion will mainly be due to a strong pipeline of projects in the power sectors. Eskom, the public utility, has embarked on a massive $37.8 billion capital expenditure program. This will be paralleled by the expected recovery in the country's metals and mining sectors, which have been negatively affected by the combined effects of the global economic crisis, plummeting commodity prices and the power crisis in 2008.

Three major technological trends are currently prevalent in the South African transformer market. Firstly, there is an increasing need for energy-efficient transformers, notably in the distribution segment. This will lower the current level of distribution and transmission energy losses in the country.

Secondly, there is a firm focus on dry-type transformers. These will improve energy savings in the commercial and industrial sector. Finally, Frost & Sullivan has observed a renewed interest in condition monitoring (CM) techniques, which can reduce operating costs and maintenance, while making transformers more reliable. These have become critical to Eskom's recovery programme as they help to avoid plant unavailability.

"While the outlook for the South African transformer market is largely positive, a combination of factors such as lack of skilled manpower, the availability of imported materials, unfavourable currency fluctuation and rising prices could hinder growth in this market," Boussougouth cautions. "Additionally, new entrants will struggle to gain a substantial market share, since the market is highly concentrated."

To gain an edge, manufacturers should design a comprehensive range of value-added solutions derived from excellent after-sales support. These can include on-site service, maintenance, installation and training, aiding equipment providers to differentiate themselves from many of the suppliers in South Africa. Further, they must provide experienced and skilled personnel, flexible enough to perform maintenance and repair work on any transformer brand.

"By providing a strong after-sales support, transformer manufacturers will be able to help customers achieve the highest level of profitability," concludes Boussougouth.

The following segments are covered in the research: high, medium, and low-voltage power and distribution transformers.