Small businesses have been dealt some hefty blows between the pandemic, reduced consumer spending, the latest Eskom price increases and ongoing load shedding. With most SMEs not having the kind of cash reserves and funds as large corporations do, these factors will undoubtedly make running a business that much harder.
While we can’t do a lot to control these factors, there is one way to mitigate increasing business costs in a country like South Africa. It’s a well-known fact that we have the ideal climate to implement green energy alternatives, locally and nationally. While the upfront costs of alternative sources of power can be a costly endeavour upfront, the investment will pay off, both for ensuring a constant power supply and saving businesses from rising costs. In fact, energy experts believe businesses can save up to 60% to 70% of their current monthly energy bills if they choose to make use of alternatives.
“businesses that could get off the grid should be supported in doing so to avoid shedding jobs”, says Chief executive of the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci), Alan Mukoki.
Aside from taking your small business online with a website builder to improve your sustainability, investing in alternative energy solutions are fast becoming a popular way to reduce business costs. But as a small business in South Africa, where does one start?
1. Solar power
How does it work?
Solar panels are fitted onto the roof of your building and work by turning the sun’s light into energy. While solar power does rely on there being sunlight, it can provide a constant supply of electricity if a storage unit is added. That means during the colder, cloudier days, the stored energy can be used to power your small business.
Solar power is one of the most commonly used alternative energy resources, both on private and commercial properties. Its source is entirely natural, all while prices have become more affordable with a high number of local companies to choose from to find the right fit for your business.
Upfront costs can be high for equipment, labour and installation, but experts say these costs are recouped within the first two years of fitment.
2. Wind power
How does it work?
Just like solar power, wind power is harnessed from a natural resource, the wind! But unlike solar power, wind power installations require a much larger space. Energy is harnessed when the three propeller blades start turning around a rotor. The rotor, which is connected to a tall shaft, turns a generator and creates electricity.
Wind turbines have been placed a minimum of 30 metres off the ground and in a large open space because of their size. They are most appropriate for farms or grounds where there is a large expanse, to catch as much as possible at a time.
If your business space is not large enough to warrant the installation of a wind turbine, or you are not close enough to a local wind farm, you can purchase a small wind turbine but they generally need to be used in conjunction with other energy sources due to the wind’s inconsistency.
3. Geothermal heat pumps
How does it work?
While less known, geothermal heat pumps can be useful for businesses who make use of heating and cooling systems in their office spaces. A heat pump draws natural heat from the earth in winter and draws cool air in summer. The system is buried in the ground and pumps the necessary air into the allocated space.
This system also requires a significant upfront cost but ultimately it reduces the costs you were spending on using and maintaining traditional air conditioning systems.
Being in a position to implement alternative energy sources is one thing, but figuring out what is available is another. We hope this guide has helped you navigate the space and figure out what renewable energy is the best for your business.