South Africans are gearing up for another year of power cuts, with experts warning that load shedding could get worse and more frequent in 2022.
Recent figures released by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) show that far from gradually stabilising or easing, incidents of load shedding have skyrocketed over the past 15 years.
Notably, a record amount of 2,455 gigawatts per hour (GWh) was shed from the national grid between January and November last year compared to just 176 GWh in 2007, which means that South Africa has suffered a massive increase in load shedding of nearly 1,300% since it was first implemented.
“The reality is that South Africa’s energy infrastructure lacks the generation capacity to meet the demands of our economy – a challenge which has been compounded by ageing and poorly maintained power plants prone to breakdowns. The development of new infrastructure is also very stifled,” said Snoeck Henkemans, managing director at Alumo Energy.
“The positive news, however, is that Eskom’s inability to regularly operate at full capacity, or to bring sufficient new generation capacity on board to support our burgeoning population, means that South Africans are quite literally taking power back into their own hands by turning to solar as an attractive, independent energy alternative.”
How much it costs
Alumo Energy has developed a calculator which shows the potential installation costs and electricity bill savings of a solar solution.
“It is also important to remember that where electricity tariffs keep increasing by double-digit figures year on year, solar offers a relatively steady supply of energy, especially in South Africa where good weather conditions allow for excellent solar-harnessing potential, and the benefits of a fixed price for decades to come.”
“This said, we do usually recommend that users avoid going completely off-grid. By implementing even an 80% rather than a 100% off-grid system, users will have the flexibility to draw on additional power supply as a safety net if required.”
To do away with this safety net completely requires exponentially more battery capacity, which means that this extra 20% is also a great deal more expensive, he said. Henkemans reports that Alumo Energy saw a 259% spike in queries for solar solutions in 2021 from 2020.
“The solar industry is experiencing phenomenal growth, which as a country is not only a positive for industry sector growth and job creation, but also acts to alleviate a considerable amount of pressure from the national grid.”
“Meanwhile, the benefits of solar solutions in comparison to other smaller energy supply alternatives such as generators, is that they are not only less noisy but also more cost-effective in the long-term. Solar systems offer longer lifespans, save significant expenses in fuel and maintenance, and are kinder to the environment. Ultimately, the growth of the solar industry represents a win-win for the country and households.”