The Shoprite Group has almost doubled the amount of renewable energy used in its operations to 103,234MWh (FY 2022: 54,138 MWh) over the past year.

It achieved this by increasing the amount of renewable energy bought from landlords and other suppliers by 91%, it said.

“We have also reduced electricity consumption by 161 million kWh through our LED lamp replacement project, and our network of solar-panel installations now covers the equivalent of more than 26 soccer fields,” said the Shoprite Group’s CSI & Sustainability Manager, Sanjeev Raghubir.

The rooftop solar rollout has gone a long way in reducing the group’s carbon footprint, Raghubir said, adding that the retailer’s total solar photovoltaic (PV) facilities now generate enough clean energy to power nearly 4,800 homes for a year.

The retailer’s three-pronged approach includes reducing consumption, expanding its installed capacity of renewables and purchasing electricity in collaboration with independent power producers (IPPs).

“We’ve increased the amount of electricity we’re buying from landlords and other suppliers by 91%. That’s progress by any measure. The next step is wheeling: buying electricity from an IPP through the existing transmission network,” Raghubir said.

“Achieving that would be a massive step forward,” he said, but added that this would require greater collaboration between various stakeholders to establish a national wheeling framework.

“In the interim, we will continue to improve energy efficiency wherever we can, and to this end, the Group has embarked on a refrigeration project. We’ll also continue to install solar wherever its viable, whether on rooftops or carports.

“We’ve set and are pursuing science-based targets to reduce our carbon emissions throughout our operations – in stores, distribution centres and transportation – with a sense of urgency.

Massive load shedding costs

Despite Shoprite’s progress in turning to renewables, the group is still suffering heavily from ongoing load shedding and the wider power crisis.

In November, the group revealed that it is spending close to R94 million a month on diesel to keep its operations going amid continued load shedding.

In a voluntary trading update for the first quarter of its financial year (July to September 2023), the group said that its diesel bill for the three-month period had risen by R90 million to R281 million.

The sharp increase in costs was attributed to the higher diesel price over the period relative to the same quarter last year.

Reporting its full-year results for year ended June, Shoprite flagged a total diesel spend of R1.3 billion for the year to counteract the impact of load shedding.

The R281 million spent in just Q1 is already more than that total spent in the 2022 full-year (R226 million) and equates to over R3 million a day.