Going solar is becoming ever more popular around the world, and it is no different in South Africa. Less than 20GW solar capacity was installed worldwide in 2009, this number made a tremendous leap to above 480GW in 2021. But is it really worth it for South Africans to go solar? With the trifecta of rising costs from Eskom, the drop in cost of going solar, and the advancement of solar technology, it seems like going solar is the answer to all our concerns.
The sun is a source of renewable energy, unlike anything produced from fossil fuels. This means that solar energy will never run out, loadshedding will be a thing of the past if all South Africans decide to go off the grid. This is a very attractive option, especially to someone like me who is currently working in a dark room on a battery-powered laptop because of loadshedding. But is this financially feasible to the average South African?
The costs involved when opting for a hybrid system
Even though the cost of going solar has dropped substantially in the past years, it is still a sizeable amount of money to produce upfront. The cost of your system will depend on several variables, so it is strongly advised to consult a reputable solar company to establish costs. An approximation of the cost of a hybrid system for an average home in South Africa where the consumer pays around R1500 per month for electricity will end up costing you R155,576.88, including value-added tax (VAT).
Costs involved for a grid-tied system
A home requiring 5kW per day – the amount of electricity the average household in South Africa uses – can expect to pay around R110 000 for installation. These costs include equipment, installation and electrical certificates. The return on investment has been calculated at around 3 to 4 years. Having a grid-tied system also involves getting a feed-in tariff from your municipality, meaning that they will pay you for your unused electricity that gets fed back into the grid.
What about the costs of going off-grid?
Opting for an off-grid system will cost you considerably more to install. The total cost for an off-grid set up is between R150 000 and R350 000, including VAT. The cost is significantly higher due to the need for a large bank of batteries to store your power generated. With technology improving and becoming cheaper, this price is dropping constantly. A return on investment will take much longer with this option, but in the long run, you will still save on your electricity bill. Currently, it makes more sense to use Eskom as a backup instead of batteries.
The final verdict
Eskom will be charging 134.30c/kWh in the 2021/22 tariff year as of April 1 to – a 15.63% increase. Taking into consideration that the cost of electricity is only going to go up and the cost of going solar is only going to get less, it makes sense financially to go solar. Electricity generated through solar is free. And it’s renewable. Being paid a feed-in tariff will shorten your return-on-investment timeframe and even make it possible to make a profit. Paying the initial upfront costs is absolutely worth it.
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