With the country being thrown into weeks of load-shedding, which is becoming the norm, the question is whether small businesses can afford alternative power solutions. While many SMMEs still rely on Eskom, the power cuts are boosting business for solar installation companies. Eddy Mokobodi, who runs Sakisa, a solar installation SMME, is one such business owner who is seeing the positive side of load-shedding.
He believes solar energy is a must for small businesses that can carry the costs. “I believe that solar energy is a good alternative for small businesses that can afford the solution because they can drive their electricity needs during office hours via solar electricity, and this will reduce the risk experienced as a result of load-shedding,” he said. “As the economy continues to worsen, solar is what small businesses should consider.”
When asked whether small businesses could afford solar energy, Mokobodi told Vutivi News that it depended on the size of the business. “Not all small businesses might have the financial muscle to get something big, but there could be some small backup solutions for small businesses,” he explained. “It really depends on how much cash the business has access to, or whether they have access to the debt they can accrue in order to get a solar system.”
Mokobodi said there had been a marked increase in solar purchases since load-shedding started again. “We do expect to see an increase in orders to continue throughout the year,” he said. “While load-shedding is good for the solar installation sector, we have to be mindful that we need an economy to continue to thrive, and an active economy that will have healthy businesses going forward (that will be able to afford solar energy).”
Mokobodi also believes that the state must invest in alternative energy. “The government should invest in solar power because they have a lot of buildings that are energy inefficient,” he said. “This would also help reduce the pressure on the grid and enable them to save Eskom’s infrastructure.” According to solar installer Solar Advice, prices range between around R2500 for a 345W Monocrystalline Solar Panel and R4500 for a 540W Monocrystalline Solar Panel.
One can also expect to pay upwards of R12,000 for a six-panel installation. While these prices may not be expensive for larger businesses, they are not affordable for many of their smaller counterparts. Phadima Thobejane, who runs Life Key, an online platform that connects Tshwane-based SMMEs with residents, said that he would like to have a solar system, but could not afford it. “I have adjusted to the load-shedding, even though my business is affected since an internet connection depends on electricity for many internet users,” he said.