South African businesses are scrambling to get off Eskom’s grid: FNB

Load shedding, increasing energy costs, and climate change are the three drivers behind South African businesses increasingly turning towards alternative energy solutions in 2021, says First National Bank.

Kyle Durham, head of alternative energy solutions at FNB Business said that the bank’s alternative energy solutions division has seen a significant increase in demand for renewable energy solutions, with Solar PV being the most popular.

Durham said that for every R1 million that the bank has funded in terms of generators, it has funded more than R5 million in renewable energy projects; a ratio of 1:5.

“As at December 2020, we have funded approximately 20MW of renewable energy infrastructure for our business customers and of these, approximately 5MW relates to agricultural and secondary agri customers,” he said.

“Despite the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the bank is projecting a significant increase in alternative energy funded solutions by the end of the year. Admittedly, it is off a low base, but momentum is growing faster and beyond any expectations we had for this year,” he said.

Durham added that the increased interest in alternative energy solutions is not limited to the banking sector.

“When we talk to the industry, they are confirming increased demand for alternative energy solutions.

“One of our customers in the industry reported that in the first three months of their current financial year, the company turnover exceeded the turnover figure for the previous 12 months,” he said.

The agricultural sector, in particular, has shown an increased appetite for alternative energy solutions in 2021.

The lack of certainty around constant power supply has had and continues to have a massive impact on the agricultural sector and associated industries. Farming operations and seasonal planning have been disrupted by repeated outages.

The cost of electricity supply remains high and set to increase further from 1 April 2021.

Last month, the presidency announced that the Electricity Regulation Act would be amended to ease licensing requirements for embedded generation projects, which includes roof-top solar power systems.

“Recent analysis suggests that this could unlock up to 5,000 MW of additional capacity and help to ease the impact of load shedding,” the president said in his State of the Nation address.

Read: Eskom to suspend load shedding for Zulu king’s memorial service

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South African businesses are scrambling to get off Eskom’s grid: FNB