The Journey to Energy Resilience in South Africa’s Load-Shedding Crisis

In 2023, Eskom reported that its average year-on-year Energy Availability Factor had dropped to 53.77%, a 9% decrease compared to the same period in 2022. The energy powerhouse confirmed that load shedding in 2023 has become more severe and frequent than in previous years. 

Against this backdrop, Solarus’s photovoltaic-thermal (PVT) technology emerges as a beacon of stability and efficiency. With Solarus, businesses have a fighting chance of surviving the energy crisis and operating smoothly. 

South Africa’s Escalating Energy Crisis in 2023

In the latest Power Availability Statistics (PAS) compiled by energy analyst Pieter Jordaan, we see that at the end of Week 33 of 2023, South Africa experienced a total of 1,296 blackout hours. This is an astonishing (and concerning) 2345% increase compared to the combined blackout hours between 2014 and 2022.

The Economic Impact of Load-Shedding

Economically, the toll of load-shedding is staggering. The Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, estimates that South Africa loses approximately R500 million (around $30 million) per stage per day during load-shedding. This translates to significant financial losses for the country, especially during higher stages of load-shedding. For example, during Stage 4 load-shedding, the economy is predicted to lose up to R2 billion ($120 million) daily. 

Ayan Ghosh, Investment Strategist at Investec, sheds further light on the economic repercussions. According to his findings, persistent load-shedding can reduce the country’s GDP growth by up to 0.3% annually. This reduction significantly impacts investment prospects, with a notable decline in local and foreign investments. This challenges businesses’ growth and profitability in the South African market.

Additionally, prolonged load-shedding has been linked to increased unemployment rates, as businesses face operational challenges and are forced to cut back on labour to manage costs. The South African Reserve Bank emphasises the critical need for immediate and effective interventions to mitigate these economic impacts and restore stability to the nation’s power supply.

Grid on the Brink: The Future of South Africa’s Power Supply

South Africa’s future is bleak as load-shedding continues into the final month of 2023. Based on Eskom’s Week 36 system status report, the power utility forecasts a shortfall exceeding 2,000MW of capacity over the next year, indicating a shift towards more severe power cuts. This prediction is a drastic change from earlier assumptions, suggesting that the nation is bracing for more frequent and intense load-shedding stages​​.

Eskom’s report comes amid a confluence of adverse factors, such as extreme cold weather and generator breakdowns. These issues culminated in the country narrowly avoiding Stage 7 power cuts, highlighting the precarious state of the national grid. The recent implementation of Stage 6 power cuts, necessitated by delays in maintenance and increased electricity demand, further reflects the grid’s vulnerability​​​​.

Stage 6 load shedding allows for shedding up to 6,000MW, and the situation has reached a point where more than 6,000MW have been cut from the grid. The looming threat of Stage 7, which entails cutting up to 7,000MW, means businesses will face frequent and prolonged power outages, significantly disrupting daily life and business operations​​​​.

The Limitations of Traditional Solar Panels 

Traditional solar panels, a mainstay in solar energy since the 1950s, have certain limitations that you should be aware of. While they marked a significant leap in renewable energy, these panels typically convert only about 20% of the sun’s energy into electricity. This means a substantial 80% of the solar potential remains unutilised, representing a significant loss in energy capture efficiency.

One of the key drawbacks of traditional solar panels is their single-functionality. They are designed primarily to generate electricity, neglecting the thermal aspect of solar energy. This limitation becomes apparent in sectors that require both electrical and thermal energy, like hospitality, healthcare or manufacturing, often necessitating additional systems for heating and increasing overall costs.

Another critical issue with traditional solar panels is their performance in varying temperatures. These panels tend to lose efficiency as temperatures rise. Specifically, for every degree increase above 25°C, the efficiency of these panels decreases by about 0.5%. This is particularly problematic in warmer regions, where the abundance of sunshine is counterbalanced by higher temperatures, leading to reduced effectiveness of the panels in the very conditions they are meant to thrive.

Solarus: Pioneering a Sustainable Future for Your Business

Solarus offers a solution for businesses seeking practical, efficient, and sustainable energy alternatives. Our advanced hybrid PVT technology, a result of collaborative innovation and global manufacturing partnerships, stands out in the renewable energy sector.

By choosing Solarus, businesses not only invest in an energy-efficient solution but also contribute to a greener future. Solarus’s technology aligns with environmental responsibility and positions businesses as leaders in sustainable practices. Moreover, the practicality and economic benefits of Solarus’s PVT solution offer a smart and future-proof investment in renewable energy, catering to businesses’ immediate and long-term needs across various sectors.

How Solarus Energises Your Business’s Future

  • Enhanced Energy Efficiency: Solarus’s PVT technology efficiently converts sun radiation into electricity and thermal energy, allowing your business to utilise more energy and reduce waste. This dual functionality leads to more effective energy use. 
  • Economic Advantages: The combined generation of electricity and hot water ensures a faster return on investment compared to traditional solar panels. Businesses can expect significant reductions in energy costs, contributing to overall financial sustainability.
  • Reliability and Independence: Operating independently from the grid, Solarus’s system offers a reliable energy supply, crucial for uninterrupted business operations. This is especially valuable for businesses where consistent energy and hot water supply are critical.
  • Ease of Installation: Understanding the need for minimal disruption, Solarus provides a streamlined installation process. This approach ensures that your business can transition to renewable energy without significant downtime, maintaining operational continuity.

Hospitality’s Energy Renaissance with Solarus

From the bustling corridors of Windtown Hotel to the elegant suites of Hyatt, Solarus’ solution has sparked sustainable change across industries and reshaped how businesses function amidst load-shedding.

Before Solarus’s intervention, Windtown Hotel grappled with soaring electricity costs, which peaked at nearly 20,000 kWh in January 2020. Post-installation, their consumption dropped dramatically to around 7,500 kWh in July 2022, marking a 60% decrease. Even more impressive was the reduction in peak load consumption, which decreased by 33%.

The Hilton Hotel (now Hyatt) once faced staggering energy costs, with consumption reaching 37,500 kWh. After implementing Solarus’s technology, their highest energy and peak load consumption were capped at 10,000, a significant reduction from previous figures. 

As 2024 approaches, businesses cannot afford to experience another year like 2023. Solarus proves they don’t have to. Contact our Hot Water Specialists for a free benefits analysis with Solarus.