Power outages and policy uncertainty remain a continued threat to business and economic growth, and it remains to be seen how new State-owned power utility Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter can work with the government to stabilise the energy provider.
One thing is certain, power will not be getting any cheaper. Solar has now become a viable, if not an essential, option for business as capital investment costs decrease and solar providers compete to offer solutions.
International solar energy company SolarSaver, has taken a unique approach that offers its clients solar photovoltaic solutions on a rent-to-own basis, eliminating the need for any capital investment on the part of clients.
Customised systems are designed and installed free of charge, and clients then only pay for the cheaper, greener power that is produced.
SolarSaver has to date invested over R250-million in installations across Namibia and South Africa and now manages the largest fleet of self-financed rooftop installations in Southern Africa, with clients from fuel stations to manufacturing businesses to large shopping centres.
While most of SolarSaver’s business was initially in Namibia, substantial investment backing from the Pembani Remgro Infrastructure Fund – a $302-million private-equity fund established by investment holding company Remgro Limited and chairperson Phuthuma Nhleko, which focuses on infrastructure and energy-related investments in Africa – has allowed the company to grow its South African portfolio.
Owing to South Africa’s electricity prices increasing by over 350% in the last decade, a solution that reduces this operational cost is attractive to businesses, says SolarSaver MD Tim Frankish.
“Our solar tariffs are significantly cheaper than the equivalent cost of grid power and as a result our clients are able to start saving on their electricity bills from the first day of installation. Our rates only increase in line with Consumer Price Index inflation, ensuring that clients’ savings grow each year as grid tariffs increase significantly beyond that,” he says.
Frankish adds that SolarSaver also remains responsible for all ongoing monitoring, maintenance and insurance.
“It’s in our interest to ensure that the photovoltaic systems are operating at peak performance and that it translates into better savings for our clients.
We like to think of SolarSaver as offering ‘capex-free, hassle-free’ solar solutions – and on that basis installing a solar system from SolarSaver would be beneficial to the consumer,” says Frankish.
He adds that, while initial solutions focus on daytime power generation through grid-tied solar, SolarSaver is already starting to update existing systems to include batteries as that technology becomes more cost-effective.
“Our long-term goal is to provide our clients with 24-hour power solutions through fully financed, customised solar-battery systems. We’re not looking to sell expensive quick-fixes to our clients – we’re offering to invest our own capital to provide them with long-term solutions.”
Grid-tied solar does not solve load-shedding issues, however, the company believes that by partnering with businesses and investing with a long-term view, it can provide a real alternative to Eskom, Frankish concludes.