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How Shoprite Is Shaping Green Energy With A Boost In Solar Capacity

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Shoprite holdings limited is an investment holding company based in South Africa. The headquarters is Cape town. Food retailing is its primary business, but they also deal with pharmaceuticals, hospitality, ticketing, furniture, digital commerce, cellular, and financial services. Since its main office is in South Africa, the primary goal is to provide all communities in the continent with consumer goods at the lowest price possible.

The Shoprite group has boosted its solar capacity by 82% over last year, but they didn’t start there. Sanjeer Raghubir, sustainability manager, says that climate change threatens the planet, the communities, and the customers they serve, whether directly or indirectly. They want to help by using renewable energy sources, hence the solar power project. Over the past year, the Shoprite group has accelerated its rollout of solar panels across South Africa and other countries in the continent where their business is based.

It operates in eleven African countries, with 2900 stores littered all over Africa, with 140,000 employees. That is a lot of electricity consumption. The electrical consumption of the group per year is about R 3.4 billion per year. The well-known customer brands include house&home, Usave, OK, Shoprite and checkers. Over the last twelve months, the group has installed solar photovoltaic systems by 82% by 26 606kWp (kilowatt peak power).

Following installing solar photovoltaic panels in 19 sites in South Africa and Namibia, the Shoprite group can now generate enough electricity that powers over 1100 households (12300 MWh of electrical energy) in a span of a year. The group did this to remove the strain on the national electrical grid. South Africa, where the group is based, has had an ongoing energy crisis; they have been experiencing chronic power outages dating back fifteen years. The country has one primary supplier, which produces electricity from coal-fired power stations. Since the Shoprite group consumed a lot of electricity, installing solar panels was a good move.

Shoprite now has 480,000 square feet of installed solar panels on the rooftops of all its stores and distribution centers across South Africa, which is equivalent to eight soccer fields! That’s a huge undertaking, but the group is keen on adopting renewable energy, which is sustainable. Since it is south Africa’s biggest retailer, they serve a large number of people from low-income areas. Therefore, they need a sustainable strategy; thus, this project keeps the prices affordable for all people without the company going at a loss.

Using solar energy has saved the Shoprite group more than R16 million in electricity bills, and the savings have benefitted the customers. The Shoprite group recognizes that the low-income communities they serve are mostly affected by climate change-related disasters. As evidenced by the recent Kwa-Zulu natal area floods in south Africa; therefore, they are investing in projects that will help mitigate such disasters.

Basson distribution centers in one of the biggest installations yet. It’s located on the outskirts of cape town in Brackenfell. It has installed solar panels on the rooftops the size of a soccer field (the generating capacity of 1MW). According to the sustainability manager, this saves the company a great deal of money. Raghubir, the sustainability manager, says they want to be the biggest in using solar energy because they are the biggest retailers on the continent. The group works with third-party companies through a 20-year power purchase consensus to build solar energy systems; then, the grocers are charged monthly for their consumption. This is 35% less than what the national grid will charge them, and the company is saving some money too. So, it is a win-win situation.

They have also installed solar panels on 649 trucks which generate roughly 760MWh annually. These power 1040 refrigerators for a year. It also allows the truck drivers to power off their engines at delivery locations; this will not only reduce exhaust fumes and noise pollution but also keeps the cold chain intact, which ensures that products are delivered while still fresh.

Currently, 18 stores throughout South Africa and Namibia have switched to harnessing the sun’s power to run their operations; South Africa has around 2500 hours of sunshine per year compared to the UK, even though they produce 4% of their power from the sun. The stores include Tsumeb and Otjiwarongo (Namibia), Shoprite Oshakati, checkers Plettenberg bay mall, Constantia, Hermanus, Whale coast mall, Shoprite Rustenburg (Northwest), Shoprite Devland (Gauteng), Shoprite strand and Welgelee Plein (Western cape) Shoprite and checkers Parys, Checkers woodlands (free state), Shoprite Kimberley and Kathu (northern cape) and Gordon’s Bay.

In August, the group secured a loan of R3.5 billion from rand merchant bank (RMB) and standard bank. The money was to fund the sustainability projects that will help reduce the group’s environmental impact. The “green loan” will preserve the environment in the following ways:

  • In a bid to reduce energy consumption and waste, the group has included LED lighting to replace the fluorescent lamps
  • Reusing plastics and cardboards
  • Use of recyclable, reusable, compostable packaging to make packaging more sustainable.
  • Using renewable sources of energy to reduce total electricity consumption
  • Efficiently using water resources.

But the journey hasn’t been smooth; the company has encountered several challenges with renewable energy. Most common grocers were built more than ten years ago, and the rooftop cannot hold up or support the solar panels, so it slows down the process. They have been able to reinforce some but not all of them, so they are aiming to use solar batteries for electricity use later. Still, it has been hard to incorporate them due to massive price tags and limits from the government concerning private power generation.

The company plans to continue down this road to reduce its environmental footprint. By 2050 they aim to have net zero greenhouse gas effluent. Continuing with solar installations will the company realize this goal. They haven’t stopped here; for the next seven years, the group has signed an agreement to procure 434,000 MWh of renewable energy annually. This is a one-of-a-kind deal because no retail company has closed such a deal. Overall, the global CDP platform recognized their efforts and received an A- score for their water security and climate change efforts.

 

 

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