Johannesburg - The cost of electricity in South Africa has jumped by nearly 900 percent since 2004, putting it in the same price bracket as London and making it increasingly unaffordable for local consumers.
That’s according to Shaun Rademeyer, CEO of MultiNET Home Loans, one of South Africa’s leading mortgage originators.
Warning of impending increases of between eight and 15 percent from Eskom over the next months, Rademeyer said South Africans were shooting themselves in the foot by not taking advantage of even the most basic energy renewable systems in order to reduce their vulnerability to power instability and crippling price surges. “For some reason, whether because of a lack of knowledge or complacency, our mindsets are still in the days when historically electricity was cheap. It’s not anymore. It’s getting more and more expensive and unreliable, despite the fact that the latest renewable energy technology is both efficient and relatively affordable,” he says.
He points out that South Africans live in the world’s third-sunniest land. “We have more than double the sunshine of Europe and other countries, who despite this, are harvesting solar power to the point that 1.7 million Germans have solar systems in their homes.”
Ahead of the gazetting of the government’s new Integrated Resources Plan (IRP), which focuses on renewable energy to the exclusion of nuclear development, Rademeyer says the writing is on the wall for citizens to change the way they consume energy.
According to James Green of Ubersolar, the draft IRP has omitted the inclusion of behind-the-meter renewables as part of South Africa’s energy mix, which, he says, would be a “significant contribution to reducing carbon emissions and providing action towards the Paris Climate Accord”.
“In much of Europe and the US, end user renewables in the forms of both solar water heating and solar electric (photovoltaic) for at home electricity generation still receive subsidies or tax incentives for consumers to go green,” he says.
In South Africa, Green says the place for consumers to start is with solar water heating and then to move onto solar electric home generation, bearing in mind that “between 35 and 60 percent of home electricity consumption is used just for heating water”.
With the prices of both solar water heating and home electricity generation having fallen “significantly” in the last few years, he says affordability is now within the grasp of a growing number of people. “The financial payback on solar water heating can be as little as two to three years, and with a lifespan of 25 years-plus, there are few other investments that can provide consumers with these types of returns.”
Anticipating that more than 80 percent of homes and businesses will have some form of renewables on their roof tops by 2030, Green says the benefits will include saving money and reducing carbon emissions as well feeding clean energy into the grid – “a glaring omission in the IRP”.
Rademeyer concludes: “Considering the facts, South Africans really need to take more control over their home functionality by introducing alternative power sources, which will also add value to their properties when it comes time to sell.”