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We have been wondering for a while now what exactly is the perceived age of the renewable energy market here in South Africa. When we refer to age, we mean how long has the green economy been developing to a point of majority adoption or are we still in progress towards it? We decided to conduct some research via FB and our friends at Powerforum to help answer this question.

Powerforum – https://powerforum.co.za

Solar PV South Africa –  https://www.facebook.com/groups/154713861795197

Why is it important? In an emerging economy that is currently fractured with so many suppliers, installers, and a huge variety of products on offer its important to understand where we are in the renewable marketplace and where we may evolve too.

We posed the question:

If the south African renewable marketplace were a person, how old would they be?

It may seem strange to ask in this manner but it proved to be an effective question. The results were interesting, so we crunched the numbers and this is what we got.

42% of participants voted on 7 years old

30% of participants voted between 7 – 10 years old

23% of participants voted on 3 years old

Given the general consensus, we believe the market to be an average of 7 years old. We also realize that the renewable energy market as a whole has been around quite a long time in fact as far back as the mid 19th century.

This research poll gives us a unique viewpoint. We know that in SA the genesis or uptake of renewables is a good 25 – 30 years already. However, this does not mean the general public at large knew or had knowledge of this including the available level of adoption at the time.

Ideally what this research points to is the following:

  1. The general public is young to the knowledge of renewable technology
  2. Technology is developing faster than ever before
  3. Renewable technology adoption is increasing
  4. The consumer knowledge gap is large and needs to be filled

The general public is young to the knowledge of renewable technology

The level of knowledge about renewable energy differs from country to country. We know that places like Australia, USA and Europe. This is in part to policy and availability to information. Additionally, we also know that these countries have been faster in the adoption cycle of renewable technologies for their cities.

Technology is developing faster than ever before

Renewable technology is developing at a faster rate than ever before. This is due to the global increased uptake of renewables and the increase in the need for independent energy and self-sufficiency. What is current today will in most accounts not be current in the next 12 months to 18 months.

While green tech development is great, it keeps increasing the knowledge gap of both consumers and installers. This also allows a bigger space for more product entrants to enter the market which in most cases are rebranded products which is prevalent in the inverter and battery space.

Renewable technology adoption is increasing

The adoption rate of renewable technology is believed to be growing at a rate of 13% per year globally. Covid-19 did put a slow down on this growth curve however experts believe it will keep progressing year on year without fail.

As technology progresses and is taken up faster in developed economies like the USA, other developing economies like South Africa lag behind slightly. This is due to many factors such as government policy formulation, consumer spending, and economic growth rates. 

The consumer knowledge gap is large and needs to be filled

Consumers want to learn and be knowledgeable about many things especially before they spend money on something. This is especially true for solar energy due to its large expense and relative explosion in SA as a feasible option to mitigate Eskom load shedding and cable theft.

The knowledge gap is large in part to a highly fragmented market with so many products on offer as well as little information to help guide consumers on how energy systems work. This is why Inside Energy was created. Product knowledge, system knowledge and overall understanding on how various renewable energy options work is lacking.

Technology Adoption Bell Curve: SA Energy Market estimates

The technology adoption bell curve is a widely used tool when investigating market entrants and mapping market conditions for new products and services. In terms of the estimated age of the energy market as per the poll, you could argue we are just entering the Early Majority phase. In many respects, we have passed through the Innovators phase whereby tech development is new and costs of equipment are at their highest.

The Early Majority is categorized by the technology enthusiast that takes on new technology which in turn helps to develop and drive progress and tech advancement. People here can see the coming issues and challenges as in this case, rolling blackouts, failing grids and stolen cable. They buy into the early days of new technology which begins the course of development and market maturity for latter buyers and adopters.

Based on the research we believe that the Early Majority phase is in action. We have finance schemes and lending plans now available for energy systems. We have a greater awareness of the need for independent power ownership and production. There is more demand for supply and currently a huge swell of installation companies busy at work all over South Africa. This phase can last anywhere from 2 years – 10 years.

What are the drivers of growth in the energy market?

Consumer Education

When we refer to drivers of growth we refer to what is required to keep the need, awareness and supply of demand rolling for years to come. We believe a key driver that will push the green economy further is consumer education and empowerment. By this we believe that an educated consumer is a confident consumer meaning that with confidence comes and increase in consumer spend.

Risk

Another driver is risk reduction of product uptake and support for post-sale care. This is also lacking as many new entrants enter the market every quarter with new or rebranded products, installer companies and suppliers be they B2B or B2C such as online shops. A large need for post-sale support is needed to ease the frustrations and help gel a very fractured market place.

Regulation

Increase regulation of the renewable marketplace. Regulation helps to drive accountability and security for installation companies as well as consumers. Market standards are generated and levelized expectations based on best practice installations become common place.

Increased regulation is not required by the state but by renewable market players which comprises of importers, distributors, installers and professional bodies coming together and lead by a focused and experience leadership which serves to galvanize the interests of all stakeholders for the betterment and advancement of a safe and regulated renewable energy market.

If you feel we have left out any important information that should be added to this article please let us know if the comments below.

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