With the renewable energy industry being one of the industries that thrived despite a pandemic, it’s all eyes on solar at the moment. With the immense growth experienced over the past two years, not just in South Africa, but globally, there are so many rising trends in the industry. We want to focus on how these trends impact South Africa, not just because it’s our country, but because it’s the third-best in the world to convert to solar energy when looking at sun availability, or as the professionals like to call it – photovoltaic energy.
Here are 8 trends to watch out for in 2021:
1. South Africa’s solar industry will create more jobs
While unemployment is on the rise, it’s amazing to see industries in renewables growing and employing new people. The most obvious benefit of this is the creation of jobs for all the new projects coming up. One thing we need to pay special attention to is the quality of the labour hired and whether installers are qualified to do installations. With the rising demand for solar, it’s still important for consumers to be discerning about who they hire and to verify the credentials of the people in charge as well as the experience of the hires completing an installation.
2. Geography matters
The three towns to watch in South Africa as solar continues to explode are Bloemfontein, Kimberley, Cape Town city centre and surrounding areas. Charles Cook, Technical Director of Backbone Energy, said that one of the primary reasons solar demand has increased in the Western Cape is because the Western Cape government is making a move towards feeding money back into the consumers’ pockets. The financial reward or kickback adds to the overall return on investment of buying a system. Bloemfontein has one of the best climates in South Africa for solar regeneration, and Kimberley has seen an increase in farms seeking a more reliable source of energy.
Expect to see a rise in more projects in these areas specifically, and more job opportunities as a result. Electricians, prepare to be upskilled!
3. The debate on the value of a solar system will continue
While most South Africans want to go solar, most do not want to pay for it. We’ll see a rise in consumer self-education in 2021. The state of South Africa’s power grid and the effects loadshedding has on businesses and consumers will push end-users to understand how a system actually works. Consumers will take more of the power into their own hands by finding out exactly what goes into a system and how much it can power. This will mean that they will begin to understand the cost behind it, the value of the investment. The continued decrease in the cost of going solar and the continued price hikes of Eskom will keep being a topic of discussion.
4. Banks are going to be putting more emphasis on renewable energy as a funding project
In 2019 Nedbank became the first bank in South Africa to list a Renewable Energy Bond on the green segment of the JSE. In the year to follow, there have been several commitments by South African banks to fund various projects with renewable energy as a focus, opening up access to capital for energy projects. According to Bruce Stewart, Head of Debt Capital Market Origination at Nedbank CIB, the issue of the Renewable Energy Bond forms a key part of Nedbank’s commitment to delivering tangible financial support to projects that contribute towards the achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The African Development Bank has also secured $90 million in donor commitments to back sustainable energy projects in Africa. All the South African banks have shifted their focus away from fossil fuels and onto sustainable energy, looking at the impact fossil fuels have on the climate.
5. Traditional energy companies will include more renewable energy products
Eskom is currently developing a utility tariff system to enable consumers to pay a supplementary tariff to meet their commitment to sustainable energy. According to Eskom’s website, this Renewable Energy Tariff will be added to your normal tariff and can fulfil up to 100% of your energy needs from their own renewable energy sources(Sere wind farm) that have been accredited as “green”. The National Energy Regulator of South Africa(NERSA) has given Eskom the green light in September 2020 as well to acquire energy from Independent Power Producers (IPP’s).
6. The rise of pricing for solar products from China
PV Magazine reported on 3 March 2021 that solar module prices rose by up to 15%. This is because of shortages of polysilicon, glass, silver, and module frames. These raw materials are in short supply due to the high demand of solar panel consumers and manufacturers not being able to keep up with this demand. Prices are expected to continue increasing for a minimum of six months until they can reach sufficient capacity to meet demands.
7. Exponential growth of solar on farms
Farmers are adopting solar technology to have access to cheaper and more reliable electricity than what Eskom can provide. With loadshedding, produce are lost due to lack of refrigeration and irrigation cannot take place. This results in huge losses carried by the farmers. One in 10 solar installations is done in the agricultural sector and this number is expected to grow by at least 10% every year. Generators run on fuel is not a viable option anymore, as the cost of fuel and diesel is high. Solar is a natural choice when taking into consideration that most farms are operational during the day. Energy generated from the sun is ideal and farms have enough space to support all the solar panels required. The adoption of solar technology is predicted to grow tremendously in 2021.
8. The demand for energy storage rises
Many consumers do not realise that having a grid-tied solar system will not mean that they will have electricity during loadshedding. This is a safety feature that your inverter performs as soon as the grid goes off. They put this measurement into place so as not to put those that might work on the grid at risk. Because of this, more and more end-users are turning towards means to store energy for later use in the form of batteries. By charging your batteries through solar energy or energy supplied by the grid, you can run your lights and some appliances during loadshedding, depending on how many batteries are in your array. Prices on batteries also decrease with technological advances and the availability of materials used in manufacturing.
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