Solar pv power plant
Solar pv power plant

South Africa is still likely to see above inflation increases in electricity prices over the next few years, making it increasingly important for consumers to consider alternative sources of energy for their homes.

This is according to Cala van der Westhuizen, spokesperson for Energy Partners Home Solutions, who says that even though the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) is currently reviewing the multi-year price determination methodology and working to prevent high increases, the large investments that Eskom is making in infrastructure are likely to significantly affect consumers’ pockets in the near future.

Home solar, affordable option

“The average increase in tariffs in South Africa since 2008 has been around 300%. According to our research, the next eight years are likely to see between at least 6% and 8% year-on-year increases in tariffs. If a carbon tax is imposed, this figure could be as high as 13%,” van der Westhuizen says.

He says that homeowners need to make a decision whether to upgrade their homes with renewable energy solutions now, if they have not done so yet. “There are affordable systems and other solutions available that enable homes to save large amounts on energy.”

Most sustainable solutions

At the same time, Van der Westhuizen advises that completely off-grid solutions are not economically viable yet. “While it is possible to take one’s home 100% off-grid, our research shows that this would definitely not be an optimal solution in most scenarios.”

Such systems rely on a large investment in batteries in order to cater for the worst case scenario, the few times per year when there may be three or four consecutive days without sufficient sunshine to adequately provide for the homes daily energy requirements, he says.

“If enough batteries are purchased to allow the home to operate off-grid during these periods, they will be severely under utilised the rest of the time.”

He adds that converting at least half of a household’s energy consumption to a renewable solution makes financial sense, since users will then often only have to purchase electricity from their provider at the lower usage tariffs further decreasing their average cost per kilowatt hour.

Van der Westhuizen states that efficient lighting and water heating can cost from as little as R25,000 [$1,800] and can easily save users in excess of 30% on their electricity bill.

“It is difficult to know what is likely to happen in future, which why we advocate installing a renewable solution as soon as it is sensible to do so. Homeowners are going to be losing out on savings if they wait,” concludes Van der Westhuizen.