Now that Eskom’s dramatic price hikes are more of a reality than a vicious rumour, South Africans will have to start thinking more seriously about alternative sources of energy. Eskom is already awarding rebates to South Africans who use solar panels to heat water, but uptake of solar systems has been relatively slow so far.
Our government and the responsible parastatals should consider looking to other countries to see how different solar solution plans are being implemented all over the world.
2010 has been a busy year so far for the international solar panel market. One of the biggest British solar panel manufacturing firms, Sharp, has predicted that demand for home and industrial energy saving products will increase tenfold over the next two years.
The sharp increase in demand in the UK will be a direct result of their government’s implementation of a Clean Energy Cash Back Scheme. The plan was designed to provide property owners with an incentive to invest in home solar panels, with an eventual look substantially reducing the country’s overall electricity consumption.
The scheme works like this: homeowners install photovoltaic solar panels onto the roofs of their houses, footing the initial heavy cost, which is between £10,000 and £12,000 (currently about R112,000 to R135,000). For every unit of electricity generated by their home solar power systems homeowners get £41 (about R460) back, even if that electricity is consumed by their own households.
Any electricity produced by a home system which is not consumed is exported back to the National Grid and homeowners are reimbursed at a rate of 3p (35c) per unit. After ten years of using solar heating panels the admittedly heavy installation costs will have paid for themselves, and after that the money saved on monthly bills plus the reimbursement for extra units is the homeowners profit to keep.
Andrew Miller, General Manager of Sharp predicts that the Clean Energy Cash Back Scheme will be effective in that 400 000 British homes are likely to be running off electricity generated from solar panels by 2014.
Unlike Britain, most parts of South Africa experience sunny conditions throughout the year, making our country more ideally suited to solar energy solutions. However, our government would need to seriously consider the particulars of a more efficient and practical incentive scheme, considering the low economic status of the majority of the South African population.
Some South Africans, however, are being productive and taking solar power into their own hands, without help from government or other authorities. East London eco-engineer Niel Schentke has found a way to produce low cost solar panels that are practical for the average South African household. It is likely that such initiatives from innovative and independent individuals and businesses will pave the future for solar in South Africa.