Redefine also considering alternatives to the way it charges consumers for parking at its centres. Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency (ANA)

PRETORIA – Redefine Properties has invested a total of R280 million in solar photovoltaic (PV) plants at 21 of its properties nationally, largely shopping centres.

The listed real estate investment trust (Reit) said it was also considering alternatives to the way it charged consumers for parking at its centres.

Chief executive Andrew Konig said the group had grown its solar capacity 180 percent to 22 039 kilowattpeak (kW/p) from 7 000 kW/p in the year to August.

Konig said they were busy with a further two plants at a cost of R17 million. “We have the biggest solar PV footprint of all Reits at the moment. It translates to roughly 5 percent of our energy consumption,” he said.

“If we can turn what is a cost into a small profit, it will go a long way towards containing and managing administered pricing, such as electricity tariffs.

“It’s not only a sustainability initiative, it's more on the preservation and maintaining of margins where it's very beneficial to us.” 

Konig said Redefine had focused mostly on retail because the usage pattern and the delivery of electricity from a solar PV plant was best suited for such facilities.

He said the true yield on the solar PV investment was difficult to determine but probably provided a return of about 13 percent and would increase as the National Energy Regulator of South Africa approved electricity tariff increases.

Redefine’s biggest solar plant is at Centurion Lifestyle Centre, with a capacity of 2 925kW/p. 

Other large solar PV plants have been installed at Matlosana Mall in Klerksdorp (2 573kW/p), Stoneridge in Edenvale (2 496kW/p), Park Meadows in Kensington (1 900kW/p) and Shoprite Park in Bellville in Cape Town (1 639kW/p).

Redefine chief operating officer David Rice said improving customer service was a priority for its 2019 financial year, adding one of the most important things, particularly in this economic climate, was to ensure that customers felt wanted.

Rice said parking was a grudge purchase and, typically in the market, the longer a consumer stayed in a shopping centre, the more they paid, which “makes absolutely no sense”.

“You want people to come to the centre, you want them to stay as long as possible and yet you penalise them for doing so.”

Rice said they had introduced a fixed fee of R5 a car in their centres for a period of three or four hours and thereafter the amount increased to stop occupiers of surrounding buildings from getting free parking.

He said they would be reviewing all their parking costs but parking was quite an income earner and they were not going to throw away R30m or R40m a year.

However, Rice said that parking at Cradlestone Mall in Krugersdorp had been free since July and since then the three supermarkets in the centre had increased sales turnover by more than 10 percent.

“That is the impact of parking. You are turning a regional centre into a convenience centre (by lifting the booms),” he said.

Redefine this week reported a 5.5 percent growth in distributions a share to 97.10c in the year to August.

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