Vukile Property Fund To Roll Out Solar PV/Battery Systems at 17 Shopping Malls in South Africa

  • Vukile Property Fund, A JSE listed specialist retail property REIT (real estate investment trust), will invest around R350 million in solar PV/Backup systems at 17 of their malls.  

The electricity crisis is a risk to retail jobs, livelihoods, and the ability of many South Africans and their communities to function adequately and safely. But specialist retail property investor Vukile has found a cost- saving, reliable and sustainable energy solution to the power crisis for retailers in its large portfolio of primarily township and rural shopping centres.

Vukile is investing significantly so that 17 landmark shopping malls nationwide get solar photovoltaic (PV) powered battery systems to give their shops more affordable and environmentally friendly power.

“The electricity crisis poses a risk to our tenants and communities that we cannot ignore, so we have identified a solution that will save money for both Vukile and our tenants in the long run and keep them sustainably powered through and beyond load shedding,” says Itumeleng Mothibeli, MD SA at Vukile.

Emphasising that it is in the interest of all stakeholders to have all tenants trading sustainably within a mall, Mothibeli adds, “Some 70% of our malls trade during load shedding. We would like to increase this number to 100% by giving our retailers the option to tap into a cheaper, more sustainable and clean form of backup power than the currently widely used diesel-powered generators.”

Vukile’s research shows that while diesel-driven generators have been a suitable solution on for lower levels of load shedding in the past – and continue to be so in certain cases – in continuous Stage 3 or higher load shedding, the financial cost of current backup solutions makes them no longer feasible in most cases.

They carry unsustainably high fuel costs, substantial maintenance costs and contribute to carbon and noise pollution. On average, total electricity costs for tenants increased by between 25% to 30% based on having to run generators at R8-10/kWh during load shedding over the period January to October 2022. This is unsustainable.

Rather, Vukile will provide its tenants with the option of reliable solar power, which, combined with battery storage, costs less than grid power. This will also save many retailers the cost of installing their own backup systems, particularly diesel generators that are unsustainable at higher load shedding stages. When retailers’ operating costs are reduced, consumers stand to benefit too.

The roll-out of this project has been fast-tracked and can be achieved in about half the time required to install generators. The first phase is scheduled for completion by the end of 2023.

Author: Bryan Groenendaal

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