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Solar Is South Africa’s Silent Revolution  

Feb 6, 2024 | Energy

Let’s say you’re one of the early adopters and you’ve got your panels installed and in great working order. So when loadshedding or unplanned blackout plunges the rest of your neighbourhood into darkness, you can continue to live the way you want. With the lights on. 

The reality is that South Africa is dealing with a worsening power crisis, and even though President Cyril Ramaphosa has promised to cut through the red tape and boost the country’s use of renewable energy, not many South Africans are willing to wait for government action. 

In fact, their impatience has driven a boom in small-scale solar installations. 

Increasingly more South Africans are willing to be without power. Especially those who work from home, where every minute without power costs their business money. 

The State Of Solar In South Africa  

We are rich in solar and wind resources, and yet the Government seems reluctant to adopt renewable energy. However, in spite of pressure from mining unions to ease up on solar renewable energy plans, Eskom’s decline has, shall we say, renewed their interest. 

And yet, the people aren’t willing to wait for the Government to act, with some solar companies seeing continuous increases, month on month, in demand for rooftop systems. Case in point, a Reuters analysis of customs data has found that South Africa imported solar PV panels worth nearly 2.2 billion rand ($135 million) in the first five months of 2022.  

But that was then. A little over a year (March 2022 to June 2023) later, South Africa’s installed rooftop solar PV capacity increased from 983MW to 4,412MW. That’s a 349% increase in just over a year.  

We’ve got a growing industry on our hands, the promise of which is more competitive prices, increased electricity sovereignty in the face of loadshedding, fewer economic repercussions as a result of loadshedding, and more competitive pricing so that solar becomes more accessible. 

Don’t get us wrong, solar is still a solution for the relatively well-off. It’s one of the factors that could continue to deepen the inequality in our society, however if the rumours that solar will become more affordable and finance will become more available (with decent rates and repayment terms) are anything to go by, this divide might not grow so wide. 

The People Have Spoken 

It’s not just about the fact that loadshedding is interfering with people’s personal lives. Not that this isn’t important. Dealing with no power from a domestic perspective is extremely frustrating, inconvenient, and emotionally stressful.  

There are also the general price hikes as retailers deal with increased power costs that help them cope with the logistics around their goods and services. That’s been a tough pill for many to swallow – and devastating to those living below the breadline.  

And then of course, we have the SME market. Smaller and especially home-based businesses have been crippled by the outages and super high power bills. For many, no power equals no work. The result is lost customers, tightly squeezed margins, and barely survivable earnings, forcing many to close their businesses. It’s sad and unfortunate.  

The result? Everyone is saying ‘Okay, we’ve had enough. We need a solution. And that solution is solar. It’s a silent revolution initiated by private residents as well as small and large businesses. 

The Future Of Solar 

When it comes to the future of solar, research from Morgan Stanley has indicated that the rise in private solar companies and the decline in South Africa’s coal generation, means electricity generated from the private sector should exceed output from Eskom by as early as 2025. 

This future is starting to take focus through the introduction of cheaper solar PV and batteries, as well as the loosening of a regulation that required the Government’s approval for systems of more than 1 megawatt. The proof is seen in the previously mentioned boom in rooftop solar purchases.  

What this means for the future is that more people will have electricity sovereignty in the face of loadshedding. It also means that loadshedding doesn’t have to be such a severe imposition on private households and local businesses. Importantly, it also means that the price of solar is becoming more competitive and therefore more accessible to the average South African. 

Feeling informed? 

The choice to go solar is quickly transitioning from the position of getting it as a luxury to becoming an actual necessity.  

If you’re still not sure what to do or if solar is the right choice for you, we have a series of handy articles – including advice on the pros and cons of solar power, a closer look at the disadvantages, how to start things off with a smart geyser, property report and much more.  

We trust that this information will help you make an informed decision. 

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