‘It’s a lifelong commitment’ – Experts weigh-in on the cost of going off-grid

Solar panel shortages in South Africa may lead to price increases. Picture Henk Kruger/ANA

Solar panel shortages in South Africa may lead to price increases. Picture Henk Kruger/ANA

Published Apr 20, 2023


Cape Town – Solar companies and energy experts have weighed-in on the realities of going off-grid, in light of South Africa’s current battle with load shedding, saying it was a life-long commitment.

That is as a number of households and businesses across the country have been looking at alternative ways in which they can go off grid and free themselves from the escalating blackouts.

Eskom announced on Sunday that Stage 6 load shedding would be implemented until further notice.

CA(SA) and Consult by Momentum chief executive, Hannes van den Berg, said the tax relief introduced by the government in February for households and businesses to offset the steep financial toll of load shedding, was not without its limitations and challenges.

“If you got fed up when load shedding escalated last year and purchased an inverter and back-up battery, sorry – your loss.

“No tax breaks coming your way.

“Secondly is a not-so-little matter of cost. Solar panels are pricey, costing in the region of R5 000 per panel. The expense deduction offered by Treasury is R15 000, which would buy you around three panels.

“Then consider that three panels will be nowhere near sufficient to power a household.

“To go completely off the grid, you can expect to pay in the upwards of around R250 000.

“Going off the grid is also not a once-off investment, but rather a lifelong commitment.

“Solar panels will need to be replaced; batteries will run down over time.

“And the stimulus package offered is for one year only,“ he said.

Founder of Kane Solutions, a company that supplies and installs top-end solar equipment, Khumbulani Mpofu, said a typical solar installation that reduced Eskom dependency costs around R170 000.

“If you consider that every investment has a payback period (payback period in capital budgeting refers to the time required to recoup the funds expended in an investment, or to reach the break-even point), then from the savings on your monthly electricity bill, at some point you recover what you would have spent in the initial investment.

“Your decision should therefore be based on how long it takes to get to the breakeven point, and that’s how much of a payback period you have,” he said.

Mpofu said the middle to higher income households would figure out how to get themselves closer to off-grid over time, while those who could not afford to go off-grid would have to stay dependent on Eskom.

“But this will also helps reduce demand for Eskom generated electricity since there will be lower aggregated demand at most times, so pressure on the grid will be reduced,” he said.

Cape Times