Your load-shedding hack

Johannesburg, 30 Nov 2021
Barry Venter, CEO, Nashua South Africa.
Barry Venter, CEO, Nashua South Africa.

Residential homes and businesses of all sizes face exactly the same challenge at the moment: Eskom’s onerous and unpredictable load-shedding schedule. It’s become clear that a consistent supply of energy for both homes and businesses is going to be a challenge faced by South Africans for some years to come.

We provide a load-shedding survival guide to help you live and work despite the regular outages.

In view of the current situation, with load-shedding being implemented at a moment’s notice, and rapidly escalating to higher levels of outages, there’s unprecedented demand from private home owners and businesses alike for alternative energy solutions, says Barry Venter, CEO of Nashua South Africa. 

Based on the last report-back from Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter, it’s safe to say the country will be experiencing load-shedding for the foreseeable future and every household, business and organisation needs to gear itself up to find a solution that will allow their school, factory, household to continue to run and operate during a two-to-four-hour – or even longer – power outage.

Venter explains: “Despite load-shedding being confined to a set number of hours, the outages sometimes run over when the power can’t be restored owing to the pressure put on outdated technology by turning it on and off, as well as theft of cables and components during outages. Then with load-shedding at stages three and four, there may not be sufficient time between outages for batteries to store up enough power for the next outage. Another side-effect of load-shedding is network outages, with recent reports in the news of battery theft from cellular towers and providers’ inability to replace these fast enough.”

COVID-19 has meant the workplace is no longer anchored by a building; the office has become any space that is occupied by a laptop and access to the cloud and internet. A lot of companies have given up their office space entirely and have opted to have staff work remotely, both as a cost-saving exercise, but also owing to safety concerns around COVID. “The added pressure that load-shedding brings to this kind of environment has created significant demand for remote working portable plug-and-play backup solutions,” says Venter. “We’re seeing companies invest in these units for their staff that are working remotely.”

Another trend fuelling demand for alternative energy is a significant decrease in the price of solar panels, batteries and solar in general. “Many households, SMEs and corporates have built a strong financial case to opt for grid-tied solar or even off-grid solar solutions.

“Our first project last year was an off-grid solar solution for a car dealership and workshop in the North West that arose out of the owner’s frustration with load-shedding and the resulting financial losses that the business suffered every time there was a power outage.

“With the latest bouts of load-shedding, we’ve seen massive demand for generators. However, one big challenge being faced by suppliers of these types of solutions is getting sufficient stock into the country because of delays at South African ports.” He goes on to say: “Unfortunately, our market is still very reactive when it comes to getting a reliable backup solution. There’s always a spike in orders during load-shedding. That adversely affects pricing because demand is so high, suppliers tend to push up prices during these times.”

The rising cost of fuel has also affected how the market tends to operate during these times. “With all sectors feeling the pinch as a result of increases in the price of fuel, the cost of everything else is going up. This makes it key that backup solution providers be able to offer their customers flexible financing arrangements.

“If customers have an existing monthly invoice with us for other solutions, we allow them to add the cost of alternative energy to that invoice, helping them to afford backup power in these difficult times.”

He provides the following key points for those wanting to embark on the alternative energy journey to protect their homes and businesses against power outages:

  1. Choose a supplier that has been in business for a while, has longstanding relationships with customers and understands their needs.
  2. Look for a solution that’s based on the pain points you experience during an outage.
  3. During difficult financial times, cost is a deciding factor for a lot of South African consumers, so find a supplier that offers finance and a range of products/solutions so you can get the one that’s right for your needs and meets your price point.
  4. Start with a scalable solution. “The biggest challenge is that, in the heat of the moment, people become frustrated and just want to go off-grid. When they see the price tag attached to an off-grid solution, they’re often deterred. They need to look for a scalable solution and embark on a journey with their supplier, addressing their immediate needs initially (eg, with a generator) and growing the solution (by adding solar) with the business and its requirements. You need to understand your limitations and what is considered critical in terms of your electricity mix – and what you need to operate. Long-term, you can move towards an off-grid solution.”

Venter concludes with a last piece of advice: “Investing in alternative energy solution is how you future-proof your household and your business. It’s essential that you be proactive; don’t wait for next bout of load-shedding before you invest in a solution. Even if it’s as simple as getting a small UPS to run your router to make sure you have internet during an outage and can access data in the cloud, it’s vital to have some form of backup. No household or business can survive without electricity.”