Start-up Wetility starts rolling out solar at SA schools

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 06 May 2024
Wetility has installed solar power at Idas Valley Primary School in the Western Cape. (Photograph by Wetility)
Wetility has installed solar power at Idas Valley Primary School in the Western Cape. (Photograph by Wetility)

Renewable energy start-up Wetility has started rolling out solar power at South African schools, in a move it believes will reduce the schools’ electricity bills and ensure uninterrupted power supply and learning during load-shedding.

On 29 April, the solar installation at Idas Valley Primary School in the Western Cape was the first of many that Wetility – together with its Stellenbosch University affiliate GreenX – plans over the coming months.

Last year, Wetility raised $48 million (R889 million) in a funding round comprising debt and equity. It also has the backing of video entertainment group MultiChoice.

In an e-mail interview with ITWeb, Johanna Horz, Wetility chief of staff and director of emerging business, says the company has a product suite geared towards schools, which starts at under R4 000 per month.

Public school Idas Valley Primary School obtained the Wetility system as part of the firm’s subscription solutions.

“Similarly to how Idas Valley Primary School pays for their Eskom bill, they will now pay for their Wetility subscription. These payments will be further aided by the anticipated electricity bill savings – generated by the solar – as well as the additional revenue obtained from feeding back power to the grid,” says Horz.

She explains that a bi-directional meter was installed at the school, which allows Idas Valley Primary School to feed excess power back to the grid.

“The solar installation at Idas Valley Primary School marks an important milestone for us at Wetility. It is our first school installation in the country, but certainly not the last. We are committed to providing sustainable energy independence for everyone and our target is to reach every school that is affected by load-shedding or high electricity costs,” Horz adds.

“We see South Africa’s schools as critical community infrastructure points, and ensuring uninterrupted power will ensure uninterrupted learning – a vital stepping stone for socio-economic development. That is why this initiative is not limited to the Western Cape.”

She points out that Wetility is open to partnering with government and “we have started on the path to deepening the partnerships and hope to start this collaboration over the coming months to accelerate our rollout”.

According to Horz, the impact of having reliable energy is critical for Idas Valley Primary School. “It allows administrative duties as well as lesson planning to continue and – most importantly – allows learning for students to continue.

“Anecdotes shared by the principal, for example, include that the school will now be able to contact parents in case of an emergency – something previously not possible during power outages. Other teachers told us about the difficulty of preparing for lessons and lack of ability to print worksheets during load-shedding, severely impeding the quality of the education,” she concludes.