South Africa is saving itself from Eskom

 ·20 May 2024

The energy crisis, government inaction, and rapid cost decline has meant that those wanting an uninterrupted power supply have increasingly moved towards private, renewable energy sources.

An analysis from The Outlier highlighted this, showing that private businesses and individuals have been flocking to rooftop solar and wind for power over the past couple years.

Solar boom

Data from the Eskom Weekly Status Report has shown that the installation of rooftop solar has just about doubled since July 2022.

SA chooses solar
Graphic: The Outlier

The pace of solar installations picked up significantly in 2023, where the country recorded 6,947 hours of planned power cuts.

“What you’re seeing in these numbers is households and the private sector taking matters in their own hands,” Wikus Kruger, director of the Power Futures Lab at the University of Cape Town, told Semafor.

“It’s being driven not by government policy per se, but by desperation,” he added.

Gauteng leads in reducing power grid demand with rooftop solar, contributing nearly 25% of the country’s total. From July 2022 to March 2023, its capacity soared from 790.60MW to 1,503.70MW.

KwaZulu-Natal follows, with projections reaching 810.90MW by July 2024. The Western Cape ranks third, with its capacity jumping almost 350% from 145.50MW in July 2022 to an estimated 642.40MW.

Some experts have said that not only does rooftop solar have the potential to benefit those who install it, but ultimately the country’s power capacity.

“The potential is there for South Africa to quickly add additional capacity to its ailing grid by encouraging the installation of rooftop solar on corporate and residential buildings,” said senior associate at Cliffe Decker Hofmeyer, Anton Ackermann.


South Africa now hosts more than 30 large-scale wind projects, marking wind power as a growingly significant part of the nation’s energy portfolio.

South Africa has increased its registered wind power by 2822% since the first quarter of 2022.

In 2022, around 73MW of wind power was registered with the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa), a fraction of the 2,133MW recorded in 2024.

2024-04-12 Nersa Wind registrations
Graphic: The Outlier

According the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA), South Africa accounts more than 30% of the continent’s installed wind energy capacity.

“Looking into the future of wind technology… approximately 34GW of wind energy projects in various stages of development. We already contribute more than 38,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity – enough to supply 3.6 million average households in South Africa annually,” said SAWEA CEO Niveshen Govender.

However, “our biggest challenge remains – depleted grid capacity to connect new renewable energy plants in resource-rich areas of the country,” said Govender.

“If grid capacity is adequately addressed, South Africa could add 30GW of wind energy in the next 10 years,” he added.

Reasons for the switch

The reasons why South Africa is experiencing a remarkable surge in private solar power are driven by a few key factors, including:

Energy crisis

The country is grappling with significant electricity shortages, often facing “load shedding” due to issues with its ailing coal-fired power plants. This has led residents and businesses to look for alternative energy sources to gain some independence from the unstable power supply.

Government inaction

According to the Automobile Association, despite abundant solar and wind resources, the government’s renewable energy program has not adequetly kept pace with demand. This has opened the door for private solutions.

Tax incentives for renewables

Government had put in place temporary tax rebates for the installation of certain renewables. However, many of these incentives have lapsed.

Rapid cost decline

Research by Sustainable Energy Africa in 2019 found that financing solar PV (photovoltaic) with storage via a home loan can be cheaper than electricity from Eskom. The cost of solar PV panels decreases more than 10% each year. In contrast, Eskom increases prices at a similar rate. 

Read: Warning over the next electricity crisis in South Africa

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