Motsepe-backed GoSolr plans ambitious R10bn expansion to fight SA’s load-shedding crisis

GoSolr, buoyed by the backing of South African mogul Patrice Motsepe and top bank Standard Bank Group Ltd., is poised to invest 10 billion rand ($537 million) in a groundbreaking initiative. Their plan? To alleviate South Africa’s persistent blackout woes by renting solar panels and batteries to homes. With ambitions to boost solar capacity from 70 to 500 megawatts, GoSolr targets a nation grappling with power cuts and soaring electricity prices. This endeavour marks a pivotal step towards sustainable energy solutions.

Sign up for your early morning brew of the BizNews Insider to keep you up to speed with the content that matters. The newsletter will land in your inbox at 5:30am weekdays. Register here.

By Antony Sguazzin

GoSolr, a company backed by South African billionaire Patrice Motsepe and the continent’s biggest bank, plans to spend 10 billion rand ($537 million) to roll out a model of renting solar panels and batteries to homes in the nation plagued by blackouts. 

The two-and-a-half-year-old company seeks to install about 500 megawatts of solar-generation capacity in four years. That’s up from its current 70 megawatts, said Andrew Middleton, GoSolr’s chief executive officer. It has attracted investment and financing from Motsepe’s African Rainbow Capital Investments Ltd. and Standard Bank Group Ltd. 

The company, which say it’s the biggest of its kind in South Africa, is one of a number capitalizing on the power cuts and surging electricity prices that have afflicted the country since 2008. 

The amount of rooftop solar in South Africa more than doubled to 5,440 megawatts in March from the year earlier. About 620 megawatts of that was on residential properties, according to data compiled by the Johannesburg-based company.  

“That’s our mission,” Middleton, 39, said in an interview in GoSolr’s head office on Monday. GoSolr, together with “all the other companies combined, can end this crisis,” he said. 

Future funding for the company will come in the form of debt and equity, with existing shareholders such as Motsepe’s ARC and Standard Bank likely to contribute, Middleton said. While founders currently own less than half of GoSolr they have retained voting control. 

Its subscription service competes with more expensive rent-to-buy operators as well as households that pay the about 150,000 rand needed to install a standard system of eight solar panels and 5 kilowatt hours of battery storage themselves.

While South Africa has some of the world’s best solar potential, just 0.7% of its 17.8 million households use the technology for electricity. That compares with 31% for Australia, 4% in the UK and 3% in the US. 

Of the power generated in the country 9.9% comes from solar and 77% from coal, according to GoSolr. While solar doesn’t produce greenhouse gas emissions, South Africa’s coal dependence has made it the world’s 15th-biggest source of the climate warming gases. 

Still, for most South Africans the systems are unaffordable. 

GoSolr is targeting the 2.2 million households that earn more than 360,000 rand a year and its subscription service is beginning to save clients money in Cape Town, which has the highest electricity costs of major South African cities. 

With the national power utility Eskom Holdings Ltd. having won permission to raise tariffs by 12.7% this year, more than double the inflation rate, savings for solar users are expected to increase. Earlier this year, power outages known locally as load shedding sometimes extended to more than 10 hours a day. 

Middleton said his company, which charges between about 1,400 rand and 2,900 rand a month for most of its products, is looking into cheaper systems to target less affluent households. 

“We started at the core where we could get scale and we can just understand how the equipment behaves, how does the credit profile look,” said Middleton, a former investment banker. Then the company needs to determine whether it can “continue to raise capital at scale,” he said. 

After that it will look at the broader market.

Read also:

© 2024 Bloomberg L.P.

Visited 1,027 times, 29 visit(s) today