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Ed’s note: Signing up for solar power and distributed energy resources

You invested in a rooftop solar system for your home (which now probably doubles up as your office) under the assumption that power outages will not affect you.

Originally published in the ESI Africa weekly newsletter on 02/12/2020

Well, that is, in theory, partly correct – but only if you had included the hefty cost of battery storage. It’s the stored power that will safely see you through prolonged periods of outages as well as when the weather is uncooperative.

Having spoken to several people who bought into a solar system, one common denominator is clear: you will still need to have access to grid-tied electricity.

This means that the war cries to “become grid-independent” that scares utility companies and municipalities isn’t necessarily an immediate threat.

However, grid defection over time is a threat that warrants attention. Not to impede the migration but to form strategies that work in tandem.

Achieving this can be addressed by understanding the reasons for customers investing in off-grid solutions. These include the cost of grid-tied electricity and the unreliability of supply.

Consider the supply challenge. Adding utility-scale renewable energy and distributed energy resources to the generation capacity is coming along.

However, not without new challenges – the intermittency factor, the power quality from these sources, and allowing for bi-directional flows as substations will need to import and export power from multiple suppliers.

At first, it appears daunting and potentially damaging to power assets. The solution lies in digitalisation and specifically, automation.

This topic needs our attention, and I’m pleased to be speaking with Lucy Electric next week [10 December] on the future of the network. This digitised future comes with so many improvements and benefits.

In the meantime, customers are evolving to prosumers – actively engaged with the power market while tackling challenges in the form of regulation.

For instance, the 2020 Kenya Draft Energy (Solar Photovoltaic Systems) Regulations appear at odds with the emerging solar power industry.

This regulation, if implemented, will require a solar power technician to have a bachelor’s degree or three courses in engineering to obtain an installer’s license, to import solar, or to have a career in the industry.

I’ve not examined the regulation to comment at length and call on you to shed some light on its viability, reasoning and whether it’s in line with global standards.

Until next week.
Nicolette

Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl
As the Editor of ESI Africa, my passion is on sustainability and placing African countries on the international stage. I take a keen interest in the trends shaping the power & water utility market along with the projects and local innovations making headline news. Watch my short weekly video on our YouTube channel ESIAfricaTV and speak with me on what has your attention.

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