Volkswagen Invests in Solar Energy Amid Polo Supremacy

Volkswagen Group Africa Prepares for Polo Global Supply with Solar Power Investments

by Ikeoluwa Juliana Ogungbangbe
Volkswagen solar power

Volkswagen Group South Africa, now trading as Volkswagen Group Africa (VWA), is making significant investments to address energy challenges and solidify its position as the sole supplier of the Polo globally, except for China. Managing Director Martina Biene announced that VWA is allocating R55 million to install additional solar panels, generating 3 MW of solar energy at its assembly plant in Kariega, Eastern Cape.

This investment is part of a larger initiative, with a total of R89 million earmarked for solar energy installations across VWA’s facilities in Kariega, Centurion, and Sandton by the end of this year. Ulrich Schwabe, VWA’s production director, explained that this effort aims to increase solar energy capacity to over 6 MW by 2024. Schwabe emphasized that this investment aligns with VWA’s ambition to make the Kariega plant carbon-neutral by 2030.

However, VWA faces challenges related to energy supply reliability, particularly during load shedding. To address this issue, the company has rented a backup diesel generator plant with a capacity of 16 MW for the Kariega facility, costing an additional R130 million. Schwabe highlighted the necessity of these generators to ensure uninterrupted production, especially during periods when solar energy is unavailable, such as at night or during load shedding.

Schwabe emphasized the importance of securing energy supply, especially as VWA operates under tight production schedules. He noted that load shedding in the past year resulted in significant production disruptions, with 23 shifts lost, equivalent to 11 production days. As the exclusive supplier of the Polo globally, except for China, VWA’s order book is filled for the next two years. Schwabe stressed that investing in backup power solutions is crucial to maintain trust with customers and uphold VWA’s reputation as a reliable supplier.

VWA’s commitment to excellence in production is evident in its recent export figures. In 2023, the company exported 101,557 Polo units from the Kariega plant, surpassing the previous year’s export numbers. With the upcoming transition to becoming the sole supplier of the Polo for global markets, VWA anticipates further production increases. Biene expressed pride in VWA’s achievements, emphasizing the company’s proven capability to meet the demands of global markets.

In addition to enhancing energy infrastructure, VWA is also focused on sustainability and environmental responsibility. Schwabe noted that the company aims to achieve carbon neutrality at the Kariega plant by 2030, aligning with Volkswagen’s global sustainability goals. The investment in solar energy reflects VWA’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint and mitigating the environmental impact of its operations.

Overall, VWA’s strategic investments in renewable energy and backup power solutions underscore its dedication to sustainability and reliability in manufacturing. As the automotive industry continues to evolve, VWA’s proactive approach positions it strongly to navigate challenges and capitalize on opportunities in the global market. With a strong focus on innovation and sustainability, VWA is well-positioned to maintain its leadership in the automotive sector and continue delivering high-quality vehicles to customers worldwide.

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