With 673 hours of darkness in the first six months of 2022 so far alone, this year looks set to overtake 2021’s record amount of load shedding, while energy experts have raised the spectre of unprecedented stage 8 blackouts.
And as winter cold sets in and heaters turn up, Eskom has warned of constraints on the national grid and just announced the restart of load shedding.
But while it’s clear that load shedding is here to stay for the foreseeable future, South Africans do not need to be understanding of or simply accept national power shortages, argues Rein Snoeck Henkemans, Managing Director at Alumo Energy.
“The fact of the matter is that Eskom remains tied to old, unreliable, and poorly maintained infrastructure – a situation which is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. It’s simply not equipped to provide a consistent and stable supply of electricity to South Africa,” he says.
“If anything, we expect to see increasing levels of downtime coupled with rising electricity prices as it attempts to address its structural and financial issues. However, homeowners don’t have to be forever beholden to Eskom, as alternative power solutions such as solar installations are becoming increasingly accessible and affordable.”
Where many homeowners’ primary concern is solar installation costs, innovative financing solutions such as Alumo Energy’s rental payment option mean that for a once-off initiation fee of around R10,000, and a monthly cost of around R1,800, homes can be fitted with a 5kW inverter, a 3.6kWh battery and six solar panels.
“This is enough to power a fridge, freezer, up to 20 LED lights, security system, three electronic devices, a television and more. Plus, within seven years homeowners own the system outright, and the system can also be scaled up depending on your needs,” explains Snoeck Henkemans.
According to the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, South Africa enjoys an average of more than 2,500 hours of sunshine per year, while average solar-radiation levels range between 4.5 and 6.5kWh/m2 in one day – more than enough to consistently meet most home’s power requirements throughout the year.
By offsetting skyrocketing electricity bills, solar systems can therefore generate significant savings over the long-term. Alumo Energy calculates, for instance, that after powering over 1,000 buildings across the country, it has saved its customers some R1.3 million in electricity costs.
According to studies, the potential cost-savings on power and growing demand for green homes means that solar systems can increase property values as much as 3% or 4% alone.
“Not only can solar help to keep the lights on while the other houses in your street go dark, but it can save you tons on your electricity bill, add value to your home, and does more for the environment,” says Snoeck Henkemans.
“Ultimately, solar is the most readily accessible and renewable power resource available in South Africa, making it the most reasonable alternative to Eskom-supplied electricity. And by combining your solar system with gas appliances such as stoves and heaters, you can essentially end your reliance on the national grid altogether.”
Green tips for households to go off-grid
Alumo Energy has provided the following seven quick tips for households to cost-effectively start the journey towards going green and off-grid:
Start small: Start small and build up your solar system and off-grid appliances as your finances allow. If your budget is tight, consider a rental payment solution which involves a 10% initial fee and a monthly payment, with the option to buy the system at any time. The rental option is attractive as it includes maintenance, insurance, extended warranties, usage optimisation, and monitoring and support. A good starting point for appliances is to consider a gas stove, gas heaters, and solar geysers. An increasing number of households are also installing water tanks to gather rainwater and reduce waste.
Lights: Switch off the lights when you leave a room, and switch to energy saving bulbs. Try to use natural light where you can.
Shower: Take showers rather than baths. Keep your showers short, and close the taps when they are not in use.
Geyser: Lower your electrical geyser’s thermostat. Even a small adjustment can make a large difference in your power usage and costs.
Solar: Use recognised, trained, and accredited providers to ensure that your solar system is correctly installed in accordance with all regulations, and that it utilises high quality components that are able stand the test of time. Also make certain that your service provider and solar system are approved by your insurance company in order to ensure that you are able to successfully claim should the need ever arise.