An analysis of the solar service provider industry in the Western Cape

Votteler, Roman Gunter (2012-12)

Thesis (MComm)--Stellenbosch University, 2012.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Scientists agree that the rising electricity usage of the rapidly growing human race to improve its standard of living is negatively affecting the environment. To create a sustainable environment for future generations, renewable and environmentally friendly resources have to be exchanged for the present finite resources. In South Africa, coal plants are responsible for more than 90% of the electricity production. This means that action has to be taken now to start a process of change to sustainable electricity resources. This study focused on the South African solar industry. Due to the high sun radiation levels, solar technology is one of the renewable energy sources with the greatest potential. The industry is in its infancy, characterised by accelerated growth expectancy and fuelled by factors such as government subsidies, the fluctuations of fossil fuel prices and the increasing focus on economical long-term sustainability. The expected growth necessitates a focus on the market positioning of solar service providers in the Western Cape with the aim of taking full advantage of the opportunities associated with this industry. The main objective of this study was to determine the current structure of the solar service provider value chain and subsequently areas of improvement to increase growth, stakeholder satisfaction and sustainability. A literature review was conducted to address the research objective, relevant approaches and the broader electricity industry. Porter’s Value Chain approach was used as a foundation for the adaptation to the solar service provider value chain. Porter’s Five Forces model was also used as a secondary approach, which analysed the competitive environment of the solar service provider industry in the Western Cape. The methodology entailed a qualitative research approach in the form of semi-structured interviews. All respondents were general managers or owners of a solar service provider, who were interviewed face to face. The study focused on the entire population of solar service providers in the Western Cape. Seventy-seven different service providers were targeted, of which 18 were interviewed. The interviews were transcribed and analysed using content and frequency analysis. To guarantee reliability, a pilot study was conducted to ensure that the questionnaire was understood by the respondents. The validity of this study is gauged as high as the entire population was targeted and the results can be broadly generalised. The findings show that customer service is the foremost value driver for solar service providers. This entails the actual installation of the product as well as the people skills of the installation team. As most customers only have to be served once due to the long life span of the products, marketing also plays an obvious role in attracting new customers. The most important outcome of this study is the determination and a better understanding of the solar service provider value chain in South Africa. The recommendations, especially with regard to marketing and service elements, could improve the performance of solar service providers. The consequence could be an increase in stakeholder satisfaction and an enhanced usage of solar energy in South Africa. Future research should focus on customers to reveal preferences and opportunities for marketing approaches.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Wetenskaplikes is dit eens dat die snelgroeiende mensdom se stygende elektrisiteitsverbruik ten einde hul lewenstandaard te verhoog, die omgewing benadeel. Om ’n volhoubare omgewing vir toekomstige geslagte te skep, sal die huidige beperkte hulpbronne met hernubare en omgewingsvriendelike hulpbronne vervang moet word. In Suid-Afrika is steenkoolaanlegte verantwoordelik vir meer as 90% van die land se elektrisiteitsproduksie. Dít beteken dat daar nóú opgetree moet word om ’n proses van oorskakeling na volhoubare elektrisiteitshulpbronne aan die gang te sit. Hierdie studie konsentreer op die Suid-Afrikaanse sonenergiebedryf. Weens die hoë sonstralingsvlakke wat die land ervaar, is sonenergietegnologie een van die hernubare energiebronne met die grootste potensiaal. Die bedryf staan nog in sy kinderskoene en word gekenmerk deur ’n verwagting van al hoe vinniger groei, wat aangedryf word deur faktore soos staatsubsidies, skommelinge in fossielbrandstofpryse en ’n toenemende klem op ekonomiese langtermynvolhoubaarheid. Die verwagte groei noodsaak ’n ondersoek na die markplasing van sonenergiediensverskaffers in die Wes-Kaap ten einde die geleenthede verbonde aan hierdie bedryf ten volle te benut. Die hoofdoel van hierdie studie was om die huidige struktuur van die waardeketting van sonenergiediensverskaffers, en gevolglik ook moontlike verbeteringe vir groter groei, belanghebbende-tevredenheid en volhoubaarheid, te bepaal. ’n Literatuuroorsig is onderneem om die navorsingsoogmerk, tersaaklike benaderinge en die groter elektrisiteitsbedryf in konteks te beskou. Porter se waardekettingbenadering het as grondslag gedien vir aanpassing by die waardeketting van sonenergiediensverskaffers. Daarbenewens is Porter se model van vyf kragte as sekondêre benadering ingespan om die mededingende omgewing in die sonenergiediensverskaffersbedryf in die Wes-Kaap te ontleed. Die studiemetodologie het ’n kwalitatiewe navorsingsbenadering in die vorm van semigestruktureerde onderhoude behels. Alle respondente is algemene bestuurders of eienaars van ’n sonenergiediensverskaffer en het aan persoonlike onderhoude deelgeneem. Die studie het op die algehele populasie van sonenergiediensverskaffers in die Wes-Kaap gekonsentreer. Die teikengroep was 77 verskillende diensverskaffers, van wie 18 aan onderhoude deelgeneem het. Die onderhoude is getranskribeer en met behulp van inhouds- en frekwensie-analise ontleed. Betroubaarheid is gewaarborg deur middel van ’n loodsstudie om te verseker dat die respondente die vraelys sou verstaan. Aangesien die hele populasie as teikengroep gedien het en die resultate dus in die breë veralgemeen kan word, word hierdie studie as uiters geldig beskou. Die bevindinge toon dat kliëntediens die grootste waarde-aandrywer vir sonenergiediensverskaffers is. Dít behels die praktiese installering van die produk sowel as die mensevaardighede van die installasiespan. Aangesien die meeste kliënte weens die lang gebruiksduur van die produkte slegs een maal bedien hoef te word, speel bemarking ook ’n voor die hand liggende rol om nuwe kliënte te lok. Die belangrikste uitkoms van hierdie studie is die bepaling en beter begrip van die waardeketting van sonenergiediensverskaffers in Suid-Afrika. Die aanbevelings, veral met betrekking tot bemarkings- en dienselemente, kan sodanige verskaffers se prestasie verbeter. Dít kan weer tot groter belanghebbende-tevredenheid sowel as meer sonenergie-aanwending in Suid-Afrika lei. Toekomstige navorsing behoort op kliënte te konsentreer om hulle voorkeure, en dus ook moontlike bemarkingsgeleenthede, te bepaal.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/71817
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