Across the globe, power and sustainability are top of the agenda. In South Africa, supply interruptions and rising costs are providing additional motivation for businesses and individuals to take the provision of consistent and sustainable power into their own hands.

Already well known for its extensive data centre and networking solutions, Huawei is rapidly emerging as a world leader in sustainable power solutions too.

Huawei has been established in the power arena for some time in Asia, and the Digital Power business unit was set up in South Africa in 2021. Since then, it has become arguably the fastest-growing part of the Huawei business in this region.

The Digital Power business focuses on Smart PV (Photo-Voltaic), Data Centre; and Critical/Site Power solutions.

The Smart PV solutions consist of PV Inverters and battery energy storage systems (ESS), available for Utility, Residential, and Commercial and Industrial installations.

They include the FusionSolar Residential range of Smart PV and Energy Storage Solution (ESS); the FusionSolar Commercial Industrial Smart PV; Utility-grade FusionSolar Smart PV; FusionSolar Smart String ESS; and the FusionSolar Smart Micro-grid solution.

The FusionSolar Utility-scale Smart PV & ESS Solution offers benefits such as lower LCOE, grid forming, safety and reliability, as well as digitalisation. The FusionSolar Grid-forming Solution uses smart string architecture and grid-forming algorithm to improve the power grid’s capability of renewable energy integration through voltage, frequency, and power angle regulation.

For Commercial and Industrial (C&I) installations, FusionSolar provides the I Smart PV & ESS Solution – an integrated, collaborative, safe, and intelligent optimiser+PV+ESS+charger+grid+management system. It focuses on the five core values of active safety, optimal electricity cost, long-term reliability, simplified O&M, and optimal revenue to help industries go green and low-carbon.

For Residential scenarios, FusionSolar offers the “1+4+X” Residential One-fits-all Solution. The solution integrates the one (1) model of inverter and four (4) core products including the optimizer, ESS, charger, and management system for multiple (X) home appliances. Huawei recently launch the Fusionsolar Residential Luna 2.0 in South Africa, available from in 10 kW configuration, with 5 kWh battery capacity per module, expandable to 30 kWh.

The premise behind the Huawei FusionSolar offerings is to integrate digital and power electronics technologies, together with advanced grid connection technologies, to proactively enhance the power grid and provide the functions of traditional synchronous generators.

All Huawei’s Smart PV solutions boast a host of innovative features making them optimal in terms of operations and efficiency.

These include Huawei’s self-developed PV system and cloud management system that allow for better product adaptation, while making it possible for more monitoring and management functions to be added.

ESS (battery) systems are built with high-quality battery cells, so they are reliable and have built-in safety features. Plus, by independently controlling the battery unit, this architecture can fully increase the charge and discharge capacity of each battery module, and increase its overall capacity by more than 5%, to obtain higher investment returns.

The cloud-based management system allows systems above 200kWh to achieve automatic SOC calibration, cell-level monitoring, and remote fault location functions.

Perhaps the most important benefit of the Huawei Smart PV solutions is the built-in safety features.

For instance, there are four different levels of safety on each Huawei Smart battery. They are:

* Pack Level Battery Management System (BMS);

* Rack Level BMS, Overcurrent Protection;

* Pack Optimiser Overcurrent Protection; and

* Rack Level Short Circuit Protection and Rack Level Fuse Protection.

In essence, this means every cell on every battery is constantly monitored for changes, with users able to access this data via a remote monitoring app. It is also possible to shut down the battery and system at any stage; while each batter has a fire extinguisher unit that will release nitrogen gas in the event of a fire.

All Huawei PV and battery safety features are embedded in both the industrial/commercial and residential product lines, so all users can rely on the best safety record in the industry.

And anyone who has engaged with the Huawei solutions will be struck by how attractive they are.

Indeed, Huawei takes a lot of pride in the aesthetics of the Smart PV product range. Not only does the company do a lot of R&D to ensure the solutions are the most effective in the market, but also so that they are easy on the eye.”

Users find this a refreshing change, particularly in the residential environment where a mish-mash of products and solutions have proliferated.


SME and residential markets

In South Africa, the SME and residential market segments are responsible for the highest sales volumes for Huawei and Mustek.

These all-in-one systems are compact and attractive, so they can be installed in any home or small office with ease.

Plus, for SMEs that require more output than one system can supply, additional systems can be set up in parallel.

The different configurations are flexible according to the SME or residential user’s needs, says Venter. “It all depends upon the load.”

The residential and SME systems can be installed by a qualified electrician.


The enterprise opportunity

Large enterprises and public sector organisations are deeply invested in keeping the lights on.

Tony Yang, the Huawei BCFG at Mustek, explains that Smart PV installations for these customers are industrial-scale projects.

“And we are seeing more and more of these large-scale commercial and utility opportunities,” he says.

Mustek started its Smart PV journey two years ago providing residential solutions, and the volume business is still in this area. But the big commercial projects are starting to land now.

The aesthetics, safety features and compact design that makes FusionSolar such a popular choice in the residential market are proving a winner in the commercial space too, Yang says.

“For instance, stores pay the malls they operate in by the square meter – so it’s important to maximise space. Our solutions are so neat they can be fitted into a smaller footprint. And if a store is moving, it’s relatively straightforward to remove the FusionSolar solution and relocate it.

“And, of course, it always looks good.”

Huawei solutions helps enterprises – and the country – to achieve their carbon-neutral goals by charging the ESS when grid demand is low, and using it to power the business when demand is high.

“We also help them with peak savings so they are not penalised for drawing power when the peak load is high, rather discharging the batteries to help save the grid,” Yang explains.

Of course, the bottom line for any company is to employ solutions that give them a good return on investment (ROI). “Which is why the fundamental goal of the Huawei Smart PV solution set it to maximise efficiency for end users,” says Yang.

In the solar industry, ROI is measured per kilowatt, and Huawei ensures that its solutions deliver the best output in the industry.

Huawei invests more than 50% of its revenue into R&D, and every product the company launches has to pass hundreds, even thousands, of laboratory tests before it is released to market.

This ensures that it’s not only the safest solution on the market, but that it offers customers the maximum benefits, and thus the best ROI.


State of the market

In 2023, the solar PV market in South Africa boomed.

Loadshedding hit a record high rate, with almost every day last year recording some level of power outages, and government instituted a tax rebate scheme to encourage businesses and individuals to invest in renewable energy.

“Last year was a very good year for us,” says Yang. “It has dropped off a little this year, but we are expecting a new surge after May.”

The residential market is heavily affected by issues such as inflation and sentiment, he adds, but the commercial market tends to be more steady.

“Residential PV solution sales are dependent on the customer’s pocket, but the big companies plan and budget for these projects well in advance, with firm plans for rollout in a specific year or quarter.

“So the market demand in the commercial and utilities side of the business has been pretty stable.

“And we expect the residental business to pick up as winter approaches.”


Into Africa

Over the past two years, Mustek has established itself and Huawei within the South African power solutions market, and now it is addressing the African market as well.

“Mustek is taking Huawei Smart PV into Namibia, Botswana, Malawi and Zambia,” says Yang. “We are also the distributor of choice in these markets for Huawei’s data centre products, cabinets and racks.”


Smart PV technology in action

Mustek and Huawei are in the final phase of commissioning a Smart PV solution for a major South African shopping centre.

It’s been a massive undertaking, says Tony Yang, Huawei BCFG at Mustek, including 6Mw of batteries and two transformers.

Consulting engineers have been on board to design not just the electrical layout, but civil engineering and construction elements as well.

Municipal buy-in is also required, with such a large system being integrated into the grid.

“To give you an idea of the scope of this project, each 2Mw battery is housed in a 20-foot container – so that’s three containers of 30 tons each just for the batteries,” Yang explains.

“The transformers, which were built to the customer’s specifications, make the total weight of the equipment up to 120 tons.

“From a purely physical point of view, we had to be sure the platform the equipment is resting on is suitable. Then, logistically, we had to get the containers and transformers in, through the car park, and on to the platform.”

The batteries have been commissioned and the system is ready to start taking the load of the shopping centre.


Mustek flies the Huawei flag high

Mustek is Huawei’s oldest and largest distributor in South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa.

Having taken on the Huawei distribution 13 years ago, Huawei is in Mustek’s very DNA, says Dawid Naude, Business Unit Manager: Huawei at Mustek.

He reflects that the company slogan – “When it comes to Huawei it must be Mustek: Connections that matter” – speaks to the deep symbiosis that the two companies share.

“Our collaboration is embedded in our shared identity and success, allowing Mustek and Huawei to deliver tailored solutions that meet the unique needs of their customers,” he says.

“Our collaboration runs deep, with our DNA intertwined. We blend expertise, technology, and dedication to expand both breadth and depth in the market. Together, we don’t just deliver products; we cultivate opportunities, fueling growth and prosperity.”

Key to achieving this vision are core values that the two companies share: Integrity, excellence, and customer-centricity.

Working together, the two organisations are now offering the market-leading FusionSolar solutions across all markets: residential, SME and enterprise/utility.

Mustek works with partners in each of these sectors, assisting them where needed with pre-sales consulting, system specifying, installation and ongoing maintenance issues.


Training and certification

It’s vital the partners take part in ongoing training and certification, with Huawei insisting that partners have a very high level of technical expertise.

Especially in the commercial space, a PV solution can be incredibly complicated, so Huawei offers a range of free training opportunities for partners, including product and technical courses.

The company’s goal is to ensure that the partners representing Huawei are not simply reselling product, but have a full understanding of the product and how to properly install and implement it.

To ease the way for partners and ensure that they are competent on many levels, all of this vendor-led training is for free.

Training includes Huawei certification on sales, pre-sales, technical, installation, commissioning and maintenance.

The solar industry in South Africa grew up very quickly and a lot of customers have experienced incompetent installers. The net result is the some customers have suffered physical damage, while the industry’s overall reputation has been sullied. This is another reason why Huawei is so focused on training and upskilling, to ensure that Huawei solutions are never compromised in any way.

The South African solar photovoltaic (PV) market is estimated to exceed six gigawatts by the end of this year, and it is projected to reach over eleven gigawatts in the next five years, registering a CAGR of over 10% during the forecast period of 2024 to 2029  – as per a well-known research firm. The Residential segment is also expected to witness significant growth.

It is estimated that there are currently more than 300 installation firms operating in the small-scale embedded generation market. There is a need to professionalise and train some of these firms as well as the many more newcomers that will enter the industry. This presents a significant job creation potential.

Mecer Inter-Ed has launched four short courses for those that are not able to be out of the office for prolonged periods of time, especially targeting resellers and installation companies that require installation capabilities fast, while adhering to the many SANS (South African National Standards) standards:

  • Two-day Solar PV Deployment Essentials courses will cover all the partner needs to effectively pass the AREP level 1 Exam;
  • One-day Advanced Solar PV Deployment course that will instill enough knowledge to pass the AREP Lever 2 exam;
  • One-day Solar PV Design; and
  • One-day Solar Hands-On practical.

Mecer Inter-Ed offers a combination of classroom-based theory and hands-on learning to provide its students with the knowledge and understanding of solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies, the design of PV solutions, best practices, and industry standards to adhere to when provisioning a PV Solutions.

Mecer Inter-Ed is also a proud founding member of the Association of Renewable Energy Practitioners (AREP) and a subscriber to their P4 Quality Assurance (QA) platform that aims to ensure that companies and individuals subscribing to the QA platform, do good quality work and through this commitment quality is assured.

With the correct skills, the energy sector could become a significant employer of labour and also an enabler for entrepreneurship.