RETAILERS TRY TO GO GREEN
SA’s ‘Big Five’ realising that renewable energy makes sense, but Greenpeace is not impressed with efforts
Over the past four years, South Africa’s major supermarkets have added at least 3.5 megawatts of renewable energy systems to their facilities to save costs and meet global climate change pressures, and they have plans to increase that. Alan Walker, Makro SA’s store development manager, said that companies were realising that saving energy made sense.
The move to renewable energy is also being driven by a need to replace expensive diesel generators and to mitigate increasing Eskom tariffs. Solar panels also provide clean and cheap backup electricity in the case of a blackout.
Justin Smith, Woolworths’ head of sustainability, said: “Global climate change negotiations have highlighted the ongoing need for the retail industry in South Africa to manage energy.”
However, the retailers’ use of renewable energy has failed to impress Greenpeace, which recently released a report looking at the renewable energy efforts of South Africa’s five biggest supermarkets.
The Greenpeace report was critical of what the “Big Five” retailers had done so far.
Woolworths’ commitment to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2030 impressed Greenpeace, but it was concerned that there was no plan in place to achieve this.
“We are working on a road map with specific milestones for both our South African and Australian operations,” Smith said.
Woolworths does not have any solar power installations at its shops, but it has three solar projects on the go at its offices. During 2014, Woolworths upgraded the solar panel installation at its head office to a 108-kilowatt plant. During 2015, the installation provided 254 369 kilowatt-hours of electricity, which equates to 10% of its total energy consumption.
The other projects are spread across Woolworths’ distribution centres. Woolworths is working on a pilot project to fit a distribution centre in Midrand with 2MW of photovoltaic power, providing between 26% and 34% of the centre’s energy needs per year.
Smith said all of Woolworths’ distribution centres would have a solar installation.
He said energy was a key focus for Woolworths to ensure the company reduced its electricity usage, became energy independent and shifted to more renewable sources.
“By 2015, we had achieved a 40% reduction in relative electricity usage across stores since 2004,” he said.
Shoprite came under fire in the Greenpeace report, but the retailer told City Press that in the past four months, it had installed solar power at Checkers in Kathu and at Shoprite in Kimberley.
The Kimberley store, with a peak capacity of 40kW, uses 1 700m2 of roof area and generates on average 990 kilowatt-hours a day, which is equivalent to a day’s worth of electricity for 70 households. The store in Kathu, which is about double the size, used 3 300m2 of roof area and generated 2 300 kilowatt-hours, enough to run 800 cycles of a washing machine, the retailer said.
Shoprite spokesperson Sarita van Wyk said the solar installations generated a complementary source of electricity that was always used first, when available.
Pick n Pay went the solar route at its Nicolway store in Sandton three years ago and a 100kW solar photovoltaic installation supplies about 4% of the store’s energy. The Pick n Pay store in Aliwal North has 50kW of capacity.
The company’s distribution centres in Philippi in Cape Town and Longmeadow in Johannesburg boast the group’s biggest installations. The solar power there is mainly used for external lighting and signage. The Longmeadow plant’s peak capacity is 150kW and Philippi’s is 300kW.
The Greenpeace report found that, to date, the Spar group had failed to focus on renewable energy.
Penny-Jane Cooke, a Greenpeace Africa campaigner, said: “Spar is in a fairly unique position in the retailer space as the majority of their stores are franchised, which means that they are able to make suggestions to franchisees, but they are under no obligation to follow recommendations from head office.”
Massmart’s solar carnival
Massmart has just unveiled its greenest store yet – Makro Carnival, which is on the way to Carnival City in Johannesburg.
Here, employees’ cars are parked underneath an array of solar panels and there are more solar panels on the roof of the building.
The newly opened shop installed 3 800m2 of solar panels and has a peak capacity of 572kW.
Massmart group sustainability manager Alex Haw estimated that the installation would account for between 60% and 80% of the store’s electricity needs during the day, and 30% of the store’s total annual energy requirement. According to Haw, the Carnival store would use 6 300 kilowatt-hours of grid-supplied electricity a day, which amounted to only 2 300 megawatt-hours a year.
Haw said the plant’s peak capacity of 572kW placed it among the largest solar installations located at a standalone retail store.
Massmart’s parent company in the US, Walmart, has just installed 105MW of solar panels on the roofs of 327 stores and distribution centres. That’s enough to make Walmart the biggest commercial solar generator in the US.
Haw said Massmart planned to produce 2.4 million kilowatt-hours of electricity from its solar energy grids, which would be installed in its other stores during the course of the year.
Makro Carnival entered into a power purchase agreement with Energy Systems Africa, the system supplier. It gives access to its roof space to the installers, which pay to put up the panels. The supplier then sells the power generated back to the store. While still a novel method in South Africa, Haw said a power purchase agreement was effective.
He admitted it was easier for Makro with its standalone stores to incorporate green technology into their design from scratch.
“Other retailers are often dependent on developers of malls if they want to bring green energy to their stores.”
Shopping powered by the sun
Local malls have put in place at least 7.5MW of solar power to reduce their costs.
In April, Growthpoint started two solar installations of 1.2MW each on the rooftops of its Northgate and Brooklyn malls in Gauteng.
The company’s building at the V&A Waterfront installed a 1.4MW rooftop solar system recently, and it can provide up to 24% of the Waterfront’s daily electricity consumption. The new R20 million system will result in about 1 640 000 kilowatt-hours a year of clean energy.
Growthpoint’s other solar initiatives are at Waterfall Mall (574kW), Constantia Village (815kW) and Bayside Mall (500kW).
So far, Growthpoint has spent R45.1 million on its photovoltaic projects as part of the company’s target of achieving 6MW in solar power.
Hyprop’s Clearwater Mall has the biggest local mall installation, with 1.5MW of peak capacity. Hyprop expects the installation to increase energy savings at the mall by up to 10% of total consumption. The system generates on average 2 500 000 kilowatt-hours a year, which is equal to the consumption in the same period of 347 average households. The panels cover an area of 12 000m2.
“Solar will help mitigate the impact of continuously rising electricity costs,” said Hyprop’s CEO, Pieter Prinsloo.
Hyprop’s research showed that the solar panels closely matched the electrical consumption of malls. The bulk of electricity is used during the daytime, making solar panels a key energy source, and they require minimal maintenance.
Last year, Emira Property Fund installed R6 million worth of solar panels on the roof of its Epsom Downs shopping centre in Bryanston, with a peak capacity of 271kW. The installation will produce about 30% of the electricity required by the shopping centre.
SOLAR SOLUTION The new Makro Carnival building is covered in solar panels