Greenpeace ranks South African retailers on renewable energy commitments

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Greenpeace ranks South Africa’s top five retailers on commitments to 100% renewable energy vision

Greenpeace Africa is calling on South Africa’s retail chains to champion the country’s transition to 100% renewable energy, stressing that they have a major role to play in shaping sustainable growth in the energy sector.

A new report, Shopping Clean – Retailers and Renewable Energy, marks the launch of Greenpeace’s new Renewable Energy Champions campaign, initially aimed at getting the country’s top five retailers — Pick n Pay, Massmart, Spar, Woolworths and Shoprite — to increase their support for solar energy.

The report outlines how retail companies in South Africa have made a start in the transition to 100% renewable energy and details the current status of renewable energy investments and commitments from each of the top five. The retailers are ranked against one another on four key criteria – energy transparency, commitment to renewable energy, greenhouse gas mitigation and lobbying for clean renewable energy.

Woolworths ranks highest with an overall score of four out of ten. Woolworths and Pick n Pay currently have solar PV installations that contribute a small percentage of renewable energy to their operations. In addition, Woolworths and Massmart have both announced pilot solar PV projects for stores and distribution centers, respectively, that are set to be rolled out this year.

Greenpeace gave Shoprite the lowest ranking due to “its lack of transparency with regard to the company’s energy information.”

“Ranking the five retailers against one another makes it clear that none of them are doing particularly well when it comes to a commitment to a 100% renewable energy vision,” said Penny-Jane Cooke, climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Africa. “Also, none of the retailers are engaged in active lobbying for the barriers to renewable energy to be removed, which is an essential step if a 100% vision is to be achieved, and this has heavily impacted on their scores.”

Comparing the retailers’ energy consumption to South African households, Greenpeace noted, for example, that Pick and Pay could free up enough electricity to supply 65,000 households in South Africa by switching to 100% renewable energy. Similarly, Woolworth’s electricity consumption is enough to power 55,000 households while Massmart could power 53,000 households. Combined, the retailers can free up enough energy to power at least 178,400 households, Greenpeace argues.

“This campaign provides an opportunity for Pick n Pay, Shoprite, Spar, Woolworths and Massmart to take the lead and show the millions of South Africans who support them that they really care about the future of this country,” Cooke added. “Renewable energy provides a real opportunity for South Africa to move away from a developmental path based on polluting coal and expensive nuclear power.”

Cooke noted, however, that while the country’s top retailers had begun to take positive steps, “the current levels of ambition are clearly inadequate, which means that there is significant room to improve.”