Growthpoint Properties, the largest real estate investment trust in Africa, has gotten into solar energy to expand its operations across the continent. To be precise, Growthpoint is seeking to expand its solar power capacity to cope with rising energy as rolling blackouts continue unabated. This decision was made in early 2023.
State electricity utility Eskom is implementing the worst rolling blackouts on record, leaving households in the dark for up to ten hours a day. The outages have hit retail tenants hard, forcing them to pay millions of Rand for diesel to power generators.
Indeed, at least 1,053 shops, 833 office tenants, and 38 industrial tenants can continue operating throughout load-shedding, owing to Growthpoint’s national energy management program, confirms Growthpoint Properties South Africa CEO Estienne de Klerk.
As a matter of fact, Growthpoint asserted that it will more than double its renewable energy generation in the coming months to power its retail sites, raising generation from 13.5 megawatts peak to 27.4 megawatts before the end of June. This was said in late January/early February 2023. Growthpoint also has 332 MW of generation potential from more than 330 backup generators, which helps to keep the lights on at nearly 3,000 businesses.
Growthpoint Properties already provides backup power to more than 70% of its office portfolio, or 1.2 million square meters of offices, through 223 generators. The REIT uses technology to monitor diesel levels and has a supply chain of in-house capabilities and external providers to keep them fueled and operating. De Klerk said the costs are substantial, but the burden is mostly shared with tenants, who pay for their own additional diesel consumption costs.
While backup power helps to ensure business continuity, it does take its toll on the environment and weighs on the REITs’ strategy to be carbon neutral by 2050. To this end, Growthpoint Properties continues to advance its program of green building and green energy, which it launched a decade ago.
Of the REIT’s 24 solar installations, half are at office and mixed-use properties, nine at shopping at shopping centers, and three at industrial buildings. However, retail installations represent the highest capacity, accounting for a combined 9.4MW.
Growthpoint’s largest solar installation undertaken this year is 2.5 MW plant at Paarl Mall, in the Western Cape, which is paired with a 4.5 MW battery system to form a hybrid renewable energy and storage system. This is the first battery system of its size to be used at a shopping center in South Africa, and Growthpoint is currently evaluating battery backup for other properties in its portfolio.