Renewable energy solutions are a quick and efficient way for South Africa to reduce energy demand on Eskom’s constrained grid, and solutions are being supported by businesses who see the value of embedded electricity solutions for their supply chains.
This is according to Chris Haw, Chairperson of the SOLA Group, who in 2018 signed seven multi-tiered Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) with AB InBev Africa that are seeing large solar power plants built across seven major breweries in South Africa.
The Power Purchase Agreements will total around 8.7 MW DC capacity. Of this, 2.6 MW have already reached practical completion with the remaining projects in advanced stages of construction.
“Not only is solar a viable and cost-effective option for us, it aligns to our global sustainability strategy, which entails going 100% renewable by 2025,” says Taryn Rosekilly, Vice President of Procurement and Sustainability at SAB and AB InBev Africa.
The bold step taken by AB InBev Africa highlights the private sector’s strong drive towards reducing carbon emissions and procuring renewable energy solutions.
Gugulethu Nogaya, the Renewable Energy Procurement Manager at AB InBev Africa explains that “procuring renewable energy is part of our sustainability objectives set at a global level. Our global renewable energy commitment is to ensure that 50% of our purchased electricity will come from renewable energy sources by 2020, and 100% by 2025”.
Nogaya points out that the company has achieved its 50 % target ahead of schedule. “We are currently on track to achieve our 100 % target, with the PPA being an instrumental first step in ensuring our African business is on track to achieve the 2025 ambition.”
Nogaya adds that “in order to meet the AB InBev 100 % target in South Africa, it will require solar renewable energy facilities to the total of 191 MW.”
According to the International Energy Agency, distributed solar PV systems in homes and Commercial and Industrial buildings have almost tripled since 2014. It predicts that distributed energy will grow as much as onshore wind by 2024, making up half of all new solar PV capacity.
This is likely due to the flexibility and affordability of PV plants compared to other forms of energy generation. The rollout of large-scale solar PV systems takes much less time than other generation technologies.
There is also a greater demand and expectation that businesses take more responsibility for the way in which they operate. Providing renewable energy allows businesses to meet their sustainability targets whilst taking pressure off of Eskom’s load.
The PPA between AB InBev Africa and the SOLA Group is allowing solar PV to be rolled out without AB InBev incurring capital costs. Instead, the company will purchase its power requirement directly from SOLA, with the remainder coming from Eskom and local municipalities.
In 2019, SOLA secured R400 M with partners from African Infrastructure Investment Managers (AIIM) and Nedbank in order to fund projects such as the AB InBev Africa solar facilities.
“Embedded electricity generation – particularly solar PV – can quickly address Eskom’s supply shortfall,” states Haw. “For large Commercial and Industrial companies, procuring renewable power enables saving costs whilst also reducing their carbon footprints.”
The solar PV plants for AB InBev Africa span across seven different sites in various areas of the country, including the Western Cape, Limpopo, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.
“Combined, the plants will consist of over 23 000 solar panels. The construction of the projects will create 175 jobs, in addition to SOLA’s 56 permanent positions,” points out Haw.
AB InBev Africa is one of the largest industrial business in South Africa, making the conversion of their sites to solar significant. “The PV systems will produce close to 14 GWh of electricity per year – the equivalent of taking over 2000 cars off the roads. This is exactly the type of clean energy procurement that we need to see more companies committing to,” concludes Haw.