Democratising solar power – Gosolr’s R1740pm solution, no capital upfront

The private sector has jumped into the opportunity presented by load-shedding and the SA government’s belated opening up of electricity supply. Market-leading Gosolr is installing thousands of no-upfront-capital solar solutions into middle-income and upwards households, currently adding 10MW monthly. CEO Andrew Middleton, a trained actuary and former investment banker, says Gosolr’s target is injecting 500MW into the grid within three years – a number which would remove half a load shedding stage. – Alec Hogg

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About the interview

This interview between BizNews’s Alec Hogg and Gosolr co-founder and CEO Andrew Middleton provides insight into the state of the solar power industry in South Africa and the company which aims to make solar energy more accessible and affordable for households. The conversation takes place against the backdrop of ongoing load shedding, a term used in South Africa to describe power blackouts.

Hogg highlights the frustration felt by many South Africans regarding the persistent issue of load shedding, which has worsened over time. Middleton acknowledges the severity of the problem but also expresses hope for a solution through the ongoing energy transition and the privatization of power in the country. He believes that the crisis can be resolved, leading to a greener and more sustainable energy mix for South Africans.

Middleton explains that the opportunity in the solar energy field became apparent to him and his co-founders in 2021. They identified a gap in the residential solar space, where expensive and unreliable products were limiting widespread adoption. Their aim was to scale residential solar and make it more accessible to middle-class households, providing them with the benefits of cheaper and sustainable energy sources.

GoSolr introduced a subscription-only solar model, offering affordability and accountability to customers. They aim to cater to the middle-income bracket, with plans starting at R1740 per month. Middleton notes the company’s target market consists of approximately two million households.

GoSolr’s target is to install 500 megawatts of solar PV in three years which would make a significant impact on reducing load shedding. Middleton says they are already the biggest player in the market, installing thousands of units per month and contributing to job creation.

Regarding the financial aspects, Middleton explains that his company’s capital investment on an installation is be repaid within approximately four years, taking into account the lifespan of different components such as batteries. He justifies an aggressive pricing model by mentioning the cost advantage achieved through scaling and eliminating middlemen in the supply chain.

When asked about geographical reach, Middleton mentions that they currently operate in several areas, including Johannesburg, Cape Town, the Garden Route, and other regions, with plans to expand further.

In terms of the impact on load shedding, Middleton believes the residential and commercial solar sector, including other players, can contribute to solving the problem within the next few years. However, he acknowledges that load shedding will likely persist for some time.

The interview also covers Middleton’s background as an actuary and the increasing trend of highly qualified individuals pursuing entrepreneurship. Middleton expresses his satisfaction with the career shift and emphasizes the importance of entrepreneurs in driving economic growth and job creation. He also comments on the tax incentives for solar provided in the latest budget, seeing them as favorable for businesses but somewhat disappointing for households.

In summary, the interview contextualizes the challenges of load shedding in South Africa and GoSolr’s role in addressing them through scalable and affordable residential solar solutions. Middleton’s optimism and ambition highlight the potential of the solar power industry in mitigating the ongoing energy crisis in the country.