The Shoprite Group is aiming to have renewable energy to fuel 25% of its operational needs in the next five years.
Speaking to CNN, Shoprite sustainability manager Sanjeev Raghubir said that the group already boasts a total of more than 480,000 square feet of solar panels on top of its 21 distribution centres and stores in South Africa and Namibia – an area equivalent to around eight soccer fields.
These generate enough solar energy to power 1,100 households for a year – but with every store and distribution centre requiring refrigeration 24 hours a day, this accounts for less than 1% of the group’s overall energy use.
“The electricity bill for the whole company is in the region of R2.5 billion. 1% of such a large number is still quite significant,” Raghubir said.
To achieve the 25% energy target, Shoprite said is working with an unnamed company to build and commission utility-scale wind and solar plants, which will generate electricity that’s then transported via the national grid.
It will also accelerate the rollout of rooftop solar panels and explore opportunities to build solar plants in other countries.
In a February interview, Shoprite said that it now has 18 stores throughout South Africa and Namibia in the group that harness the power of the sun for their operations.
It also has fitted 649 solar panels to the roofs of its refrigerated trucks, which generate 760 MWh annually – enough power to run 1,040 refrigerators for a full year.
These allow drivers to switch off truck ignitions at delivery locations, reducing noise and exhaust pollution, while keeping the cold chain intact.
In a bid to find innovative ways to reduce electricity usage, the group has also replaced fluorescent lamps with energy-efficient LED lamps. The process cost R98.3 million, and in the four years since its inception has saved 83.8 million kWh of energy, it said.
“We recognise that climate change poses direct and indirect risks to our business and the communities we serve,” said Raghubir,
“Therefore we are taking measures to tread more lightly on our planet. Apart from these solar panel installations, we have also signed an agreement which will see the group procure 434,000 MWh of renewable energy per year for the next seven years.
“We are the first retailer to close such a deal, which is arguably the first of its kind in Africa.”