Robert Jardine is the founder of Out of the Box Energy Solutions. In support of the African Mining Brief editorial on Containerised and Mobile solar solutions, which is to be published in the September/October 2017 publication, Jardine is interviewing industry leaders on the genesis of mobile solar systems, and their application and adoption in mining. The first interview is with Erwin Spolders, the CEO and founder of Redavia. The interview took place on Thursday the 24th of August 2017. In the article below, Jardine underlines the business case for mines to utilise mobile solar energy in their operations.
Redavia offers remote off-grid and on- grid businesses and communities reliable, cost-effective, and sustainable solar energy to reduce the cost and emissions of diesel generators, through their innovative solar lease business model. Redavia are the market pioneers and current market leaders for leased solar as a product within developing nations.
Out of the Box Energy Solutions is a renewable energy start-up that develops and distributes mobile solar PV and hybrid solar PV products into Southern Africa. Making solar power a viable power source for short, temporary and medium-term power requirements.
Out of the Box Energy Solutions believes that Africa needs new business models, using tried and tested technologies, that fit the requirements of Africa, that allow Africans to access the current technologies.
Mobile Solar does this by changing the way renewable, de-centralised power is deployed, from the traditional fixed assets that require long-term, restrictive energy offtake plans to be in place, to mobile, re-deployable, secure and easy-to-use products that fit the need for flexibility inherent in African businesses.
Redavia are industry leaders deploying solar as a mobile, re-deployable product and have pioneered the development of leased solar in Africa for variable duration contracts.
In conversation with Erwin, you can understand the success of Redavia, the genesis of mobile solar and the value that his company offers. In emerging markets and throughout the world, solar power has been accepted as a leading power generation source, especially here in Africa with its abundance of sunshine. However, solar is powered through capital investment, and capital investment is secured through reducing and managing risk. In Africa and many developing countries, managing risk is a key challenge, yet is exactly what Redavia have managed to do. This is clearly due to the markets they target and their business model.
Erwin says that they target remote frontier markets in countries that are stable and relatively developed. Their clients are large established companies that can offer the security required, while the cost of electricity in these areas is high and the demand for electricity outstrips the current supply of electricity. When considering the above, the value offered from Redavia’s leased solar solutions is very clear. Additionally, the very nature of mobile solar enables the product to be recovered and controlled remotely, giving his investors further security when investing their capital. In addition, clients benefit from the reputational value associated with solar power.
Redavia has since their first installation in 2014 proven that their leased solar systems and business model works and that it fits the requirements of African businesses, while fulfilling their investor’s requirements. Have worked through and pioneered leased solar, they are now scaling their business model further into additional developing nations in Africa. Focusing on large B2B clients that can offer the security required for flexible term contracts with a minimum duration of (three to five years) that usually run for (five to ten years) and are (90 to 2 MW) in generation capacity.
The ongoing and very rapid decline in the cost of energy storage technologies, such as lithium-ion batteries, supercharges Redavia’s business model and potential scale-up curve. With storage at economic cost levels, Redavia can offer customers not just a reduction in electricity costs, but also full 24/7 reliability. For on-grid industrial customers, eliminating outages and reducing the monthly power bill, all without up-front investment, is an unbeatable value proposition. For remote, off-grid sites, such as off-grid mining, energy storage offers additional benefits in terms of redundancy and security of supply to run essential power circuits, such as site lighting, gold-room security, fencing/gates, in case diesel supply runs out due to cut supply routes or generators break down.
When discussing traditional de-centralised diesel genset power suppliers, Erwin points out that Redavia has partnered with some operators to provide hybrid power solutions to their clients and encourages other operators to consider the benefits that they can offer their customers by partnering with a mobile solar operator.
On asking Erwin to share his best advice he has learnt from the Redavia journey so far, he believes: Customer education is key; mobile solar and leased solar is new and therefore ensuring that the value proposition is clearly understood, operationally, technically, commercially and reputationally is paramount.
Additionally, Time is on our side, with every day the cost of solar and storage technology comes down and overall the cost of traditional energy sources is going up. Meaning that Redavia’s value proposition has improved for their customers and investors making their offering more compelling as time goes on.
I have to agree with Erwin, that considering all we have talked about, the market for mobile solar and the multitude of new business models it creates there is bound to be plenty of demand and growth for this new market in the coming years.
Will mobile solar and the business models it enables be the answer to powering Africa? I believe it might be part of the answer. What do you think?
Robert Jardine is the founder of Out of the Box Energy Solutions. Out of the Box Energy Solutions develop and distribute mobile solar PV and hybrid solar PV products into Southern Africa. Making solar power a viable power source for short, temporary and medium-term power requirements.