• Staff writer


Updated: Dec 18, 2020

Mitigating environmental and economic risks for itself and its tenants’ businesses, Emira Property Fund is continuing its programme of investment into clean energy from renewable resources to create long-term growth and drive economic recovery.

Emira’s focus is on a balanced portfolio of office, retail, industrial and residential properties. It has 79 directly-held South African properties and has diversified offshore with equity investments in 10 grocery-anchored, open-air convenience shopping centres in the USA. It began exploring site-embedded energy production with a small 271kWp farm on the roof of Epsom Downs Shopping Centre in Bryanston in 2015, which generated power used at the property.

“Based on the lessons learned from this pilot project, we have now completed our eighth installation and increased total annual production of solar power to more than 9-million kWh,” confirms Justin Bowen, National Development Manager and Head of Sustainability for Emira.

The solar farms power Emira’s buildings in an environmentally responsible manner and further enable other businesses to play their part in reducing the strain on the national power grid. Each solar farm that comes online lessens reliance on Eskom and coal-fired power stations. In choosing premises that benefit from a solar energy supply, businesses reduce their operational carbon footprint by ensuring that part of their power use comes from clean, renewable energy.

Emira has increased its actual solar power production nearly eightfold in during its past two financial years alone.

“Looking back on our renewable energy journey we have learnt a great deal, some big lessons and others small but no less important. For instance, we always install water taps close to photovoltaic (PV) panels for easy cleaning with less water consumption,” Bowen notes.

Significantly, Emira’s ongoing renewable energy drive hasn’t been derailed by the pandemic which, if anything has quickened the shift towards more resource-efficient, sustainable business in 2020. Its latest installations were completed at Market Square, Plettenburg Bay, and Springfield, Durban, during the lockdown. It is working on plans to install three more before mid-2021.

With current legal and technical difficulties, it is not viable to supply electricity over-production to the national grid. Thus, PV power is most effective at properties that operate seven days a week, so that the entire production can be consumed on the property itself. The cost of batteries for solar power storage is still prohibitive. That said, technology is improving in capacity and reducing in cost as global giants like Tesla, BMW, Jaguar, and others invest millions of research and development dollars for battery technology to use in electric-powered vehicles.

“With the increasing price of Eskom power, we have reached a point where, even with wasted weekend energy production, the cost per kWh from PV generated panels still makes better financial sense. Importantly, it is clean. We foresee major solar farm rollouts increasing for years to come. It is agile and responsible compared with coal-powered stations that take decades and fortunes before they become operational,” points out Bowen.

Sustainability is engrained in the Emira ethos, which includes reducing its carbon footprint and being a good global corporate citizen.

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