SA’s ‘Big Five’ re­al­is­ing that re­new­able en­ergy makes sense, but Green­peace is not im­pressed with ef­forts

CityPress - - Business And Tenders - YOLANDI GROENEWALD busi­ness@city­

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

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