South Africa’s power supplier, Eskom, has warned that the country could experience 101 days of load shedding this winter. Eskom introduced electricity blackouts in 2007 when they announced that they couldn’t supply electricity to the whole country at the same time. Since then, South Africa has experienced rolling blackouts on and off, affecting production and business operations for all industries in the country for almost 15 years.

In 2019, load shedding cost the economy between R60 billion and R120 billion. It’s estimated that the overall economic impact of rolling blackouts over the last 10 years is R338 billion. Businesses can’t afford to depend on an unreliable power system, and many business owners have found other ways to power their operations. If now is the time for you to invest in alternative power solutions, consider these options for your business.

Generator

A generator is a machine that converts mechanical energy into electrical power. Every generator has an engine that creates the mechanical energy and an alternator that converts the energy into an electrical output. While generators are convenient as you can quickly switch to the power source when load shedding starts, they need fuel to generate electricity. Whether the generator uses petrol or diesel, fuel is becoming expensive in South Africa, so it could become costly to run a generator.

Pros

  • The switch from grid power to generator is seamless
  • Ideal for days when load shedding is announced unexpectedly

Cons

  • Generators can be expensive
  • They produce a large amount of noise
  • You need fuel to operate the machine, and petrol and diesel prices are rising

Battery-based inverter

An inverter is a device that converts direct current (DC) from a battery into alternating current (AC), so common appliances can use it. The battery is charged with electricity, and the energy stored is used when the power goes out. An inverter is ideal for load shedding as rolling blackouts don’t happen all the time, so there’s time for the inverter to be charged before the power goes out and again when it comes back on.

Pros

  • Device starts working as soon as load shedding starts
  • No need to charge the battery manually

Cons

  • Battery may not have time to recharge if load shedding is longer than expected
  • Can be expensive, depending on how many appliances or devices you need to power

 
Solar power

Solar power is created by converting sunlight into usable energy. Besides the cost of purchasing and installing solar panels, the energy produced by the sun is free and available in abundance, as most areas in the country experience more than 2,500 hours of sunshine per year. Unlike the other alternative power solutions we’ve shared, you can go off the grid with solar power, and load shedding will no longer be an issue for your business.

Pros

  • You can go off the grid with solar power
  • Solar energy is environmentally friendly
  • Sunlight is limitless

Cons

  • Expensive to install solar panels
  • Can’t control the weather

What to consider before investing in alternative power solutions

Before choosing an alternative power solution, calculate the cost to invest in these power solutions and how much you’ll need to spend to operate each one. If you don’t have the capital to invest in a generator or solar power, you could look into the financing options offered by local energy suppliers. You could hire a generator, or if you’re interested in solar power, you could opt for a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), where the supplier installs and maintains the solar panels. Your business then pays the supplier to use the equipment.

Think about the future of load shedding when making your decision. Eskom’s chief executive, Andre de Ruyter, has said that the country could expect another five years of load shedding. Determine how practical it is for your business to work around load shedding for at least the next five years and how it will affect your business’s productivity and finances in the long run.

Consider maintenance when choosing an alternative power solution. No matter which solution you opt for, regular maintenance will be essential as it keeps equipment in good condition. Ensure that the supplier you choose uses an efficient system like Asset Management Software to schedule and manage maintenance jobs. Asset maintenance prevents unexpected breakdowns, which is crucial if you want to power your business operations during load shedding with the alternative power solution.