Without an alternative power source, it is increasingly unlikely that businesses will survive South Africa’s electricity crisis.

It was this harsh realisation that prompted the Kelston Motor Group to invest heavily in solar solutions at its Eastern Cape dealerships.

According to Kelston operations director Peter McNaughton, there was no longer any choice but for businesses to adapt as the country continued to battle crippling loadshedding.

Eskom has imposed daily loadshedding since October 31 last year, making it well over 100 days of scheduled blackouts. Even by the power utility’s most liberal estimates, it will take at least two more years for its electricity-generating infrastructure to be overhauled.

An additional 4 000 to 6 000 megawatts of generating capacity are required if power outages are to end. For dealerships and other businesses, failing to act now could have dire consequences.

Kelston has already upgraded more than half its 21 dealerships to solar power after it became clear that its aftersales division, in particular, was being impacted.

These dealerships are situated in the major centres along the coast, most notably in the Nelson Mandela Metro, where its head office is, and East London.

The group also serves customers in the Karoo and provincial hinterland with a presence in towns such as Komani, in the north, Cradock, Somerset East, Makhanda and Port Alfred.

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Kelston Motor Group operations director Peter McNaughton believes there is a serious case for businesses to start producing their own power. Photo: Supplied

As much as the business was in alignment with the environmental positives, McNaughton readily acknowledged that the decision to install solar panels had been rooted in business sustainability.

“We simply cannot repair or service vehicles without electricity. With the current levels of loadshedding and the uncertain future, we had no option but to upgrade.”

While loadshedding costs weighed heavily on production and productivity, blackouts also brought emotional costs, including low staff morale, increased frustration and a general lack of positivity, said McNaughton.

However, he was also quick to point out that vehicle dealerships were luckier than most in that their power needs were relatively low compared to some other industries.

“We are fortunate that we only operate in the day, which saves on the need to purchase major power-storing units,” he said.

“For example, a major retail chain recently disclosed it had spent R560-million on diesel in the last few months to keep its operations going during stages five and six loadshedding.”

While Kelston did not have a crystal ball and there was no way of telling whether South Africa could alleviate the power crisis, McNaughton believed there was a serious case for businesses to start producing their own power.

“This would depend on the business and needs of the specific organisation.”

He said that the group was fortunate in that it was open only in daylight hours.

“We don’t have massive power needs over short periods and the design of our buildings is suited for the fitment of panels.

“But, at the end of the day, the availability of power is a reality, and it looks like loadshedding will be with us for some time.”