'Off-grid more viable as Eskom rates set to soar'
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Cape Town - Electricity prices could soar higher than the rate of inflation over the next few years, warn alternative energy proponents.
They say that the costs of large infrastructure investments being made by Eskom will soon be passed on to consumers despite a review of prices by the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa).
Cala van der Westhuizen, of Energy Partners Home Solutions, said tariffs had increased by an average of 300 percent since 2008. “The next eight years are likely to see between at least 6 percent and 8 percent year-on-year increases in tariffs,” he said.
“If a carbon tax is imposed, this figure could be as high as 13 percent.”
He said leaving the grid entirely might become increasingly viable. Using renewable sources for at least half of consumption might already make some financial sense, since users would then be buying their electricity at cheaper lower-usage tariffs.
Van der Westhuizen said efficient lighting and water heating could cost from as little as R25 000 and can easily save users in excess of 30 percent on their electricity bill. Other systems that can save households 70 to 80 percent on their bill can cost between R100 000 and R180 000.
He said the price was affected by factors such as the complexity of the installation, the type of roof the client had, and whether the client wanted a photovoltaic and inverter solution, or a full installation including a battery, water heater and LED (light-emitting diode) lighting.
The initial cost of such a system could be justified over time because the period it took to pay for itself in electricity savings, usually between two and six years, became shorter with every electricity tariff increase.
“It is difficult to know what is likely to happen in future, which is why we advocate installing a renewable solution as soon as it is sensible to do so.”
Gregor Kuepper, managing director of SolarWorld Africa, said there were many benefits to investing in alternative energy solutions such as solar PV (photovoltaic) for residential consumers, including reducing electricity bills every month.
Kuepper said a photovoltaic system enabled consumers to fix their electricity costs.
“For example, a kWh of solar energy can be as low as R0.80/kWh for the whole lifetime of the solar system, while homeowners pay already substantially more for a kWh from the grid.
“As we have seen in the past five years, these costs have been increasing constantly and will do so in the future.
“When you are a homeowner you are aware that every investment you make in your home will provide a return. This investment will provide energy savings during the whole lifetime of the solar installation, which results in increasing the value of the property.”
Kuepper said solar PV could be easily installed in residential homes, but homeowners should bear in mind the quality of the product, the track record of the manufacturers and the warranty offered. A good quality product will produce more than 30 years clean and emission free energy and provide cost savings, he said.
Solar energy was environmentally friendly as it reduced the user’s carbon footprint, since there is no smoke, gas or other chemicals that can cause pollution or harm to the environment, he said.
Ernest Sonnenberg, Mayco member for utility services, said rebates were not offered for the installation of solar technology. “We are aware Eskom was running such a scheme, but are not sure whether this is still in place,” he said.
In addition, future price increases would be determined by Eskom and the energy regulator Nersa.