Shopping centres move to renewable energy solutions

As South Africa’s energy crisis worsens with no indication of abating, more JSE-listed property counters are starting to place renewable energy solutions on the agenda.

Eskom is not only battling to keep the lights on, the power utility’s cash flow issues are threatening an increase in electricity tariffs. Rolling power outages are now seemingly a part of daily life due, Eskom says, to the lack of maintenance of the country’s power system.

It is this precarious energy scenario which has prompted shopping centres to investigate the benefits of renewable energy solutions.

Emira Property Fund (Emira) announced on Thursday that it has installed a R6 million solar farm on the roof of its 6 961 square metre Epsom Downs Shopping Centre in Bryanston.

Emira said the photovoltaic solar project – which is a pilot at this stage – will produce 30% of the electricity required by the shopping centre. The solar project is expected to save 515 172 kWh of energy per annum.

The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) granted Eskom a 12.69% rise in electricity prices for this year. Development manager at Emira Justin Bowen said with the increase in electricity prices, the financial viability of solar initiatives is becoming achievable.

Some counters are beefing up their green initiatives, such as Tower Property Fund (Tower). The company recently announced that it is now replicating the energy efficient light retrofitting programme at its 13 500 square metre De Ville Shopping Centre situated in Durbanville. The retrofitting initiative was originally launched at its 26 000 square metre Cape Quarter mixed-used precinct in Green Point, Cape Town.

CEO of Tower Mark Edwards said the retrofit programme at Cape Quarter is saving the company “R850 000 per annum” – which is more than what the company expected. The precinct has seen operating costs reduce by 13.5%.

Tower has also jumped on the solar energy bandwagon.

The company installed a R3 million solar project at Cape Quarter in December. With the roof space of the precinct being utilised to generate energy, Tower estimates that the solar initiative will save over R350 000 per annum and 348 000 kWh of electricity per year.

The payback period – the time when an energy efficient initiative is installed and when savings materialises – for light retrofits is one year, according to Edwards. The payback period for the solar initiative is six years.

Tower’s green initiatives have piqued the interest of investors.

“Its proactive approach to ‘greening’ their portfolio since listing [in 2013] should be even more beneficial going forward given the current electricity crisis,” Stanlib’s head of listed property funds Keillen Ndlovu.

Hyprop Investments (Hyprop) has also followed the solar energy route. Hyprop installed a solar photovoltaic plant at Clearwater Mall, west of Johannesburg. The R8 million plant installed on the centre’s roof is expected to conserve about 900 000 kWh of electricity per year. It supplies approximately 3% of Clearwater Mall’s annual electricity.

Hyprop CEO Pieter Prinsloo said similar green solutions will be rolled out at other centres in the portfolio.

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