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Nathan Bergemann of VRE Ventures Steps Up to Tackle South Africa’s Energy Crisis

Electricity, power and energy are the kinds of things most people don’t think about until they are no longer available. 

Power outages that can leave millions without everything from lights to air conditioning are considered mere inconveniences to some. But as power failures continue to disrupt the global economy, the role and relevance of energy has never been more important. 

Nowhere is this more evident than in South Africa, where an ongoing energy crisis continues to escalate. 

“South Africa is heading into the southern hemisphere winter with the prospect of the country’s worst-ever power cuts—up to 16 hours a day,” reads a May 24 BBC article. 

According to Bloomberg, some 86% of South African households are connected to the grid, compared with 40% for Africa.

“But the good news ends there,” the May 20 article reads. “Those households go without electricity at least 10 hours a day on average.”

Stepping in to relieve the growing pressure to keep South Africa powered in an efficient manner is Nathan Bergemann, who runs VRE Ventures. 

“Our role and mission is to provide energy security,” Nathan said. “A company is not going to close in five years because they don’t have power. Energy security allows companies to produce goods and keep staff employed. ”

Speaking of South Africa’s government-owned electricity supplier, Nathan said, “Eskom can’t keep the lights on. We’ve got load-shedding just like any other African country at the moment. And that’s opened up the door for our business, the commercial-industrial projects, and that’s why we’re so busy. It’s great. It just solidifies where we’re headed as a company.”

In 2021, VRE Ventures helped a manufacturing company in Johannesburg transition from reliance on the grid to a four-tiered power system involving solar, battery, diesel generator, and then grid. This not only gave the company control over its power needs but also positioned it to face the energy crisis more resiliently.

VRE Ventures provides renewable energy products to installers and the end-user market. The firm also provides high level designs for HV and LV Off-grid and Grid Tied systems. 

“Our mission is to provide good quality, affordable solar products to the South African and Southern African Development Community markets,” Nathan said. “We keep our costs as low as possible and in turn pass those savings on to the installers.”

With a background in the engineering energy field, Nathan’s focus is electrical engineering. He has worked for large American companies in South Africa and in 2016 branched out on his own. In 2020, in the wake of the COVID pandemic, he launched VRE—Variable Renewable Energy—Ventures. 

VRE Ventures products include portable power units, generators, solar structures, and solar:

  • Panels
  • Kits
  • Inverters
  • Batteries
  • Accessories

What can’t be overlooked is the VRE website url, vrebess.com. The BESS stands for battery energy storage solution, another area of expertise for VRE. 

But stepping back to take a big-picture look, Nathan believes the future of energy in South Africa will rely on mini-grids. According to the African Development Bank, a mini-grid is a “Set of small-scale electricity generators and possibly energy storage systems interconnected to a distribution network that supplies electricity to a small, localized group of customers and operates independently from the national transmission grid.”

Nathan described the use of mini-grids as “revolutionary.” 

“The days of big power companies existing with big power stations, coal or nuclear, I think those days are coming to an end,” he said. “I think it’s going to be mini-grids, localized, private mini-grids, people selling back to the grid. I think that’s what’s going to happen and yeah, we’re aiming to be a part of that revolution.” 

Visit vrebess.com to learn more. 

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