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Electricity and Generators – Where to Next?

Generator & Plant Hire SA (GPH) has been involved in the provision of backup diesel generator solutions for over 27 years. Through an integrated network of 15 national branches, 100 vehicles and about 150 staff, the business runs the largest national fleet of rental generators in the country.

From the smallest size of 8KVa to the largest at 1MVa, the fleet size of over 700 sets is deployed across residential, cellular, mining, agricultural and industrial customers through operations that run 24/7/365. At full utilisation, which is about 80%, our fleet churns through 1 million litres of diesel per month.

The local generator space is split into the following sectors, which I will breakdown in summary and talk around briefly:

  1. Residential/individual -4KVa to about 8KVa ideally your normal 3 bedroomed house
  2. Cellular Operations -17KVa to 30KVa. Estimated at 15 000 generators currently installed.
  3. Commercial -60KVa to 200KVa, made up of restaurants, small business/offices
  4. Industrial & Agric -250KVa to 4MVa, ranging from mines, factories, construction sites, etc.

In the last wave of load shedding in 2016, the market was flooded by cheap imports of sets and we estimate at least 300 000 generators are installed locally in the various sectors, the bulk of which will sit in small to medium sized homes and small business. Like any engine, maintenance is key in getting a generator to work on demand and we have experienced an influx of calls from people whose un-serviced sets have failed to start when needed due to various factors. Sadly the lack of service and support for uncommon brands imported in 2016 have seen owners have to part with extra cash as they write off sets that cannot be serviced due to lack of spares or accredited local agents. The rental model, has therefore become a most favourable choice in the wake of unpredictable load shedding and the future of energy supply in the country.

For a small standby fee, a generator is placed on site, linked to an Automatic Mains Failure switch, monitored remotely 24/7 for emergency readiness, fuel etc and when the lights go out, it kicks in immediately and provided backup. In essence this is no different to car rental, photocopier leasing or cell phone prepaid services. You pay as you go.

In summary, the diesel generator market is a long term market that will continue to work alongside business in keeping the lights on, more so as we enter another phase of uncertain power supply. The rental option is more lucrative where reliability and uncertainty of supply exist and will see the emergence of new products and players in the market. Customers need to carefully evaluate options and understand their needs and avoid the outlay of Capex in the absence of a long term energy plan from Eskom. Key in decision making is choice of product, size of generator, certified installation and the availability of a backup plan and services round the clock which only an established business such as GPH will readily offer from over 27 years of experience in the industry.

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