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A ray of sunshine: Times are challenging but businesses can turn to solar to help cut costs

With the global and local economy reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses are being forced to cut operational costs wherever possible. “These uncertain times make it very difficult for businesses to get a handle on their near-term revenues and finance costs. That leaves the operating cost line as one of the few things they can try to control - and energy cost savings can play a big role there,” says Tim Frankish of solar energy company SolarSaver.

Frankish says that while most business owners agree that solar installations are a worthwhile investment, the current economic climate sees many businesses looking to preserve capital in the face of an uncertain future. “This is where SolarSaver’s offering really comes into its own,” says Frankish. 

Instead of requiring clients to invest substantial capital to purchase systems outright, SolarSaver is able to offer a unique capex-free solution. “SolarSaver’s rent-to-own model means systems are designed and installed free-of-charge and clients only pay for the cheaper, greener power that is actually produced,” explains Frankish. “SolarSaver’s rates can be as much as 50% cheaper than the equivalent cost of grid power, and that translates into significant operating cost savings for clients.”


A winning recipe


SolarSaver is backed by considerable investment from the Pembani Remgro Infrastructure Fund (PRIF), a US$302 million private equity fund established by Remgro Limited and Phuthuma Nhleko with a focus on infrastructure and energy-related investments in Africa. While SolarSaver was initially focused solely on Namibia, the PRIF investment has allowed SolarSaver to aggressively grow its South African portfolio as well. SolarSaver has to date completed over 180 installations across Namibia and South Africa. This portfolio represents the largest fleet of self-financed commercial and industrial systems in Southern Africa, with clients ranging from fuel stations to manufacturing businesses to large shopping centres.


Dirk Nel of Lynx Property Developers, developers of Lynwood Lane shopping centre in Pretoria, says “Solar has previously been expensive to install and set-up. This way, our developments can immediately benefit from greener energy, without the capital outlay.”  

Dylan Niemann, general manager of Mtuba Shopping Mall in northern Kwa-Zulu Natal concurs, “We are always looking for new initiatives that help reduce our impact on the environment.  In addition, the irregular power supply and load shedding threats over the last few years have forced us to search for alternative ways to generate our own electricity. For Mtuba Mall, the SolarSaver solution is an absolute winner.”


Frankish says another key benefit of the rent-to-own contracts is that the responsibility to monitor, maintain and insure the systems rests with SolarSaver. “Our clients have the tested assurance that systems are designed to last and can be scaled to supply changing power needs. It’s in our interest to ensure that the photovoltaic systems are operating at peak performance, and that translates into better savings for our clients.”

Grid-tied versus off-grid solutions


While many businesses would like to eliminate the risk of loadshedding, going completely off-grid may not always make financial sense.  While SolarSaver does offer both grid-tied and off-grid solutions, Frankish says the focus of its rent-to-own model is daytime power generation through grid-tied solar to reduce electricity costs.


“We’re offering to invest our own capital to provide clients with long-term solutions, rather than trying to sell expensive quick-fixes. Our preference is to install grid-tied systems initially and then look towards adding battery storage facilities in future.  Our long-term goal is to provide our clients with 24-hour power through fully-financed, customised solar-battery systems. We believe that by partnering with businesses and investing with a long-term view, we can provide a real alternative to Eskom in future.”


With businesses facing major challenges in this time of economic upheaval, SolarSaver has structured an innovative solution that offers a capex-free, hassle-free way to harness greener solar power and immediately reduce costs.