Solar PV and the value of your home

We offer a new perspective on the potential long-term value you can create by installing a solar PV system in your home.

Authors: Matthew Capes, Sean Moolman

To provide context we elaborate on why the reliability, affordability, and sustainability of solar PV make it a viable and valuable addition to your home. The trends in the South African residential property market and the current challenges caused by Eskom’s service are also discussed. We then move on to the focal points of Saleability and sales premium. To get insight into how solar PV systems can improve the saleability of South African homes, we spoke to two local residential property experts: Sandra Gordon, Senior Research Analyst, Pam Golding Properties, and Anthony Stroebel, Head of Business Development, Pam Golding Properties and Director of the Green Building Council of South Africa.

We conclude with a method designed to help you calculate an estimate of the potential home sales premium unlocked by installing a solar PV system in your home.

Read time: 4 minutes

The Context: Declining Grid Reliability and Increasing Cost

The transition to clean energy is critical to securing a sustainable future for humanity. 

In an ideal world, this would be at the top of everyone’s to-do list, but each day brings its own challenges.

Especially in sunny South Africa.

Note: EAF = Energy Availability Factor

For example: How do I manage to keep up with rising electricity and water bills? How do I cook dinner, have a hot shower, or watch some TV with my family, when persistent load-shedding and unexpected blackouts leave us in the dark? 

Solar PV has become an increasingly affordable, reliable, and sustainable solution to these issues.

*Annexure A includes more detailed information and references for the above illustration*

As a South African you are certainly aware of the challenges Eskom brings, and you may already be familiar with the reliability, affordability and sustainability provided by solar PV.

There are solutions to the current challenges faced by many South Africans.

This begs the question: can a solar PV system add future sales value to your home?

But what about the future? 

An important reality often overlooked, is that the solar PV system becomes part of your home once it is installed (solar PV panels are routinely guaranteed at 25 years or more).

International research suggests that it can, however, we sought insights closer to home. A lekker local perspective if you will.  We spoke with Sandra Gordon (Senior Research Analyst at Pam Golding Properties) and Anthony Stroebel (Director at GBCSA, Head of Business Development at Pam Golding Properties) about two forms of value:

Saleability is the extent to which the home can be easily sold or rented.

Sales premium is the ability to command a higher sale or rental price.

At the end of this article, we provide a guideline for estimating your own home sales premium.

Let’s begin with saleability.

Gordon and Stroebel note, “Saleability is always relative to that particular moment in time i.e what else is on the market that would be competing for the same buyers. Certainly, at this point in time, when solar PV has not necessarily reached any degree of critical mass, it is likely that solar homes will be competing with non-solar homes and will definitely, therefore, have a ‘value edge’.”

Let us elaborate on what that “value edge” is.

Independence from Eskom     

Stroebel and Gordon anticipate that despite the lack of local research on the matter, the fact that South African electricity tariffs are rising steadily and load-shedding is set to continue for the foreseeable future, it is extremely likely that any measures which reduce utility costs and increase a home’s independence from state utilities would increase its saleability.

They explain: “With a large, young population – and with utilities becoming more erratic and expensive – new mixed-use developments typically include energy and water efficiency features, solar power and – in some cases – rain harvesting, etc. These features are undoubtedly attractive to the majority of potential homebuyers and, based on international trends, will be particularly important to younger buyers (who are an important source of housing demand in South Africa).”

Securing the value of your home means you should consider who the buyers are likely to be and what would attract them to your home.

Millennials in the Market

Research conducted by COGNITION Smart Data found that Millennial home buyers have “a strong ethic of sustainability” and are looking for “smart homes that are sustainable, efficient and healthy”.

Adds Stroebel, “Millennials want homes with the latest and greatest – and most environmentally compatible – technology.

“According to this research, millennials have a high level of interest in solar technologies to reduce their carbon footprint, reduce their energy bills and increase self-sufficiency. Trends which rising local tariffs and increased instability in delivery are likely to reinforce.”

So, they are young and they want to save the planet… and money too.

Environmental and Financial Sustainability

According to research conducted by CoreLogic, “Surveys have demonstrated that millennials tend to be more environmentally conscious, so it is no surprise that they are the ones driving the green revolution in housing.

Solar panels will continue to be more popular on single-family homes, each unit with its own battery and power management system”.1

Green features such as a solar PV system also provide financial sustainability in the form of direct savings on energy costs, improving the saleability of your home and a potential home sales premium.

In a 2018 survey by the Pam Golding Property group, “70.3% of its agents estimated that homes with green features record a price premium of up to 5%, while 54.4% of agents stated that buyers are showing an increased interest in green features.” 2

According to Ooba, “Energy-efficiency has become a buzzword for house-hunters – not just because of load shedding, with homeowners around the globe trying to go green. A home that is less dependent on the grid makes for a sound investment opportunity.” 3

What does this all mean?

A smarter and more sustainable home can offer you cost savings and certainty through independence from Eskom – and these solutions will undoubtedly make your home more attractive to prospective buyers.

All these factors (and more) combine to create a perception of the value in prospective home buyers’ minds.

As they say in marketing, perception is reality.

So, does this perception of enhanced value translate into real value?

Listed in Table 1 (below) are several estimates from reputable international research for quantifying the potential home sales premium as a result of having a solar PV system installed.

Table 1: Sources of international research on solar PV and home sales premium

The Appraisal Journal cited researchers Ruth Johnson and David Kaserman“Value increase of about $20 for every $1 saved on annual energy costs.”
A study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory“$5,000 resale value increase for every kilowatt (kW) of solar installed.”
The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)“Price premium of up to 4% (depending on size and age/condition of system).”

Reference – 4

Using the methods in Table 1, we created a rough guideline on how to estimate your home’s potential sales premium by having a solar PV system installed. *Please see Annexure B*

The estimates from the National Bureau of Economic Research (4%) in Table 1 and the aforementioned Pam Golding Properties survey (5%) are close enough to provide a basis for estimating the potential home sales premium in South Africa.

In the following illustration, we depict a range of potential sales premiums made possible by installing a solar PV system in a South African home.

Please see Methods and Assumptions

Acknowledging the limitations of applying these methods and estimates is pertinent, especially considering the lack of local data.

With that being said, we want to leave you with a final thought. Put yourself in the prospective buyer’s shoes. Imagine you have narrowed your choices down to two houses on the same street. The selling price is similar and so are the houses. The only major difference is that the owner of one house decided to install a solar PV system.

The houses don’t seem so similar anymore. One of them is smarter, more sustainable, and offers independence from ever-increasing electricity tariffs and protection against load-shedding.
 
Which house would you be more interested in buying or be willing to pay a premium for?


*We would like to extend a special thank you to Sandra Gordon and Anthony Stroebel. We greatly appreciate your time and effort spent on providing us with invaluable insights.

ANNEXURE A

We know that solar PV can offer independence from Eskom’s unreliable service.

Although we were in lockdown most of the year, South Africa still experienced its worst year ever of load-shedding in 2020with a total of 1798GWh shed and 859 hours of outages.

To put that into perspective, there are 8 760 hours in a year.

We had load-shedding almost 10% of the time in 2020.

Eskom has not been off to a good start in 2021 either. According to data from Eskom se Push we had already seen 560 hours of load-shedding in the first half of 2021.5  

Will the situation improve?

According to a technical report by the CSIR, Eskom’s coal fleet’s Energy Availability Factor (EAF) has declined from 94% in 2002 to 57% in 2019. Degrading infrastructure, scheduled maintenance, and unexpected breakdowns exacerbate the rate at which the coal fleet’s EAF declines.

This means the situation is likely to get worse (at least, before it gets better).6

Solar PV has also become much more affordable, whereas Eskom is progressively more unaffordable. From 2007 to 2019, Eskom’s average electricity tariffs increased by 446%. Over that same time period, the price of solar PV modules decreased by more than 90% from R57,4/Wp  to  R5,32/Wp. 7


For the 2021/2022 year, the average monthly electricity bill is about R1 508 across all income groups in the four major metropolitan areas (Cape Town, Joburg, City of Tshwane and eThekwini).*B

Solar PV is dramatically more environmentally friendly too.

Several lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions studies show that solar PV, at only 50g of  CO2-eq./kWh, has a fraction of the lifecycle GHG emissions of coal (948g  of  CO2-eq./kWh). 8

Remember, most of the electricity generated by Eskom comes from coal-fired power plants.

These studies analysed the emissions over the entire lifecycle of each technology, from the mining of raw materials to manufacturing to operation to decommissioning at the end of its useful life.9 

ANNEXURE B

*We adjusted the monthly electricity cost and solar PV system cost estimates from the methods in Table 1 to reflect those in South Africa rather than America.


Using the methods from Table 1, we begin our calculation with R2 034, the average monthly electricity bill for lower-middle to upper-income groups (LSMs 5 to 10) for the 2021/2022 year.*B

According to the Appraisal Journal, a solar PV system can enable a home sales premium of up to R20 for every R1 saved on annual energy costs.

To calculate potential annual savings, we multiply the R2 034 average monthly electricity bill by 12 months, which equals about R24 000.

Next, we multiply R24 000 by R20 which gives us a potential sales premium of R480 000.

To get to that same R480 000 but using the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory method which estimates R75 000 sales premium for every kW of solar installed – you would need to have about a 7kW solar PV system installed. *C and D

According to a 2021 BusinessTech article, having a 5kW solar PV system installed will cost about R110 000.

This equates to R22 000 per kW installed, thus we can expect the 7kW system mentioned above to cost about R150 000.10

If our potential sales premium is about R480 000 and the cost of our solar PV system is about R150 000, we arrive at an arbitrage opportunity of R330 000.

We must consider that, if the potential 4% sales premium is R480 000, the total starting price of our home would need to be R12 000 000.

Since most of us don’t have a home valued at R12 million, let us work out the sales premium using the average selling price of houses in South Africa for property in the lower-middle (R638 200) income group to luxury value property (R2 300 000).11

In 2019, the average selling price of houses for the above groups was about R1 300 000. Subsequently, the 4% sales premium would be about R52 000.

Green Economy Journal Issue 48

REFERENCES

1 – https://www.corelogic.com/intelligence/the-top-four-ways-millennials-are-changing-the-housing-market/

2 – https://blog.pamgolding.co.za/greener-living-rise/

3 – https://www.ooba.co.za/resources/living-off-the-grid/

4 – https://www.solarreviews.com/blog/do-solar-panels-increase-home-value

5 – https://www.timeslive.co.za/news/south-africa/2021-06-09-dark-times-weve-had-560-hours-of-load-shedding-so-far-in-2021/

6  –  https://researchspace.csir.co.za/dspace/bitstream/handle/10204/11483/Wright_2020_edited.pdf?sequence=7&isAllowed=y

7 – https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/solar-pv-prices

8  –  https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/ipcc_wg3_ar5_chapter7.pdf

9  –   https://reinvestproject.eu/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/OR_RE-INVEST_Life-cycle-GHG-emissions-of-renewable-and-non-renewable-electricity.pdf

10 – https://businesstech.co.za/news/energy/313854/this-is-how-much-it-will-cost-to-install-solar-panels-in-south-africa-based-on-the-size-of-your-house/

11 – https://www.intergate-immigration.com/blog/cost-of-living-in-south-africa-ultimate-guide/

Methods and Assumptions

*A – We want to make it clear: The ranges shown in the “Real Value: An Overview of Estimates” illustration, as well as the more detailed sales premium estimation guideline found in Annexure B, are based on rough international data which we further adjusted to make it more relevant in the South African context.

With many variables, some of which have changed drastically over the last few years, these sales premium ranges and estimation guidelines are rough at best. They are only intended to give a basic idea of how a solar PV system can potentially lead to a home sales premium.

*B – Average residential electricity consumption data was obtained from Goliger, A. and Cassim, A. (14 and 15 July 2017). Tipping Points: The Impacts of Rising Electricity Tariffs on Households and Household Electricity Demand. 3rd Annual Competition and Economic Regulation (ACER) 2017 Conference, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Last accessed: 21/08/2017.

*B – Average effective residential electricity tariffs were calculated from the published 2021/22 tariffs of the following four metropolitan municipalities: City of Johannesburg, City of Tshwane, City of Cape Town and Ethekwini, using the average electricity consumption values for LSM5-10 obtained from the above references.

*C – The solar PV systems as discussed in this article include battery back-up and are thus either hybrid or off-grid residential solar PV systems. Grid-tied systems do have some form of backup (AC grid power) and provide cost savings with solar energy they do not have a back-up in the case of load-shedding. Thus, in our estimations, we focused on hybrid and off-grid solar PV systems.

*D – At the time of writing the exchange rate was R15 to the Dollar

View more

SNEC 2021: Huawei digital power pushes for zero-carbon with convergence of energy and information flow

With the theme of “Leading power digitalisation for a zero-carbon and smart society”, Huawei Digital Power presents its zero-carbon all-scenario solution at SNEC 2021, the world’s largest solar trade exhibition held in Shanghai, China. As a trailblazer in the global solar PV industry, Huawei is doing its part to fuel PV to become the main energy source and to create a greener world.

One of the most eye-catching parts of this exhibition is Huawei FusionSolar All-scenario PV & Storage Solution, which covers “4+1” scenarios: Smart  PV Generator FusionSolar 8.0, Green Residential Power 2.0, Green C&I Power 1.0, and off-grid (fuel removal) power supply solutions + Energy Cloud, aiming to accelerate the shift to zero-carbon generation and bridge the energy divide.

On top of the exhibition display, Huawei also hosts a two-day Huawei SNEC 2021 Global Virtual Summit for customers and partners who cannot attend the exhibition in person. The online summit gives the audience a valuable chance to witness the new products launch, insightful expert interviews and highlights from the booth.

FusionSolar 8.0: Creating a future-proof smart PV generator

Disrupting the traditional structure, Huawei launched the future-proof smart PV generator, called FusionSolar 8.0. It offers customers two benefits: First, the smart PV generator promises improved grid stability; second, the world’s first “Gemini” ±1500V design can help to support larger sub-arrays, higher voltages, thus could reduce LCOE by 7%.

Green Residential Power 2.0: Starting New Life in a zero-carbon home

The upgraded Green Residential Power 2.0 solution highlights the innovative “1+3+X”structure. With the Smart Energy Controller at the core, it is equipped with three key components – the optimiser, the smart string ESS and the Green Power Cloud to build the intelligent power ecosystem. The Green Residential Power 2.0 solution, focusing on smart power generation, storage and smart power consumption with multiple active safety features, can lower your energy bill and allow you to start a new zero-carbon life.

Green C&I Power 1.0: Let green power empower all industries

Huawei launched its new C&I solution this year, which fits for different application scenarios: solar only, storage only, solar + storage + charging and off-grid. With the application of optimizers and the smart string energy storage system, the solution can improve the energy yield by 30% and energy storage power by up to 15%. Huawei inverters support intelligent AFCI arc protection and automatically shut down within 0.5s, ensuring the active safety of systems.

Huawei’s digital power zero-carbon all-scenario aolution: Leading the power digitalisation for a zero-carbon and smart society

In addition to zero-carbon power generation, Huawei also displays the digital power zero-carbon all-scenario solution for the first time at SNEC. In the era of carbon neutrality, Huawei Digital Power business unit gives full play to its strengths in digital technology and power electronics and integrates the watt, thermal, energy storage, cloud, and AI technology, to accelerate the digitization of the energy industry and contribute to a zero-carbon smart society.

During the unfolding energy transition, renewables represented by solar PV will inevitably become the primary source of energy, and building a new power system with renewable energy as the main source is the key to achieve carbon neutrality. With profound expertise in the integration of digital technology and power electronics, Huawei works with customers and partners to promote the energy transition and build a zero-carbon and smart society.

View more

De Wildt Solar grows North West Province’s green power map

De Wildt Solar, situated within the Madibeng Local Municipality, close to the town of Brits, in the North West Province, has announced its Commercial Operations on 23 January 2021, having achieved Facility completion.

This 50MW PV project is the fourth utility-scale plant that has come online, in the North West, in under five months, helping to make this Province a serious player in the renewable energy sector. All four projects are 100% South African-owned and don’t only deliver much-needed power to the country’s national grid, but also provide benefits to the local rural communities through impactful economic development programmes.

“Resident of Brits, Mmakau, Mothotlung, Lethlabile, Ga-Rankuwa and surrounding areas within a 50km radius of the project will be the direct beneficiaries of the Economic Development projects over the next 20-year operations period.  These projects will include training and accelerator programmes, skills development training and other welfare initiatives,” Nomzamo Landingwe, Chief Community Operations Officer for De Wildt Solar.

One of De Wildt Solar’s Socio-Economic Development programmes included the installation of a waterless ablution facility, for the Rutanang HIV Care Centre.

Rutanang HIV Care Centre is situated in the area of Mmakau, close to De Wildt Solar.  This community health centre provides much needed support and services to hundreds of community members, including primary school children.

This NGO assists the community with HIV testing and counselling, education around chronic diseases and also assists the local clinic with handing out of Chronic Medication in the community. The waterless ablution facilities from Enviro Loo were installed to replace the use of old drop toilets, which are generally unhygienic and sometimes unsafe.

The focus of De Wildt Solar’s Economic Development programme is to empower and strengthen local beneficiary communities with a focus on education, as well as youth development, health, food security and welfare. The programmes have been chosen following research and engagement to ensure that they are well informed and will strengthen the beneficiary communities.

Additionally, a percentage of the revenue generated each year will be committed to implementing Enterprise Development initiatives. The first beneficiary, a brick-making facility called Moagi Women Development Primary Cooperative, in the Mmakau community, received support during the project’s construction phase.

A shaded working area was constructed for the co-op, to create a resting space for the women who work in the tough outdoor weather conditions.  This shaded working area has also created a space for the co-op workers to set-up their machinery, which was donated by other donors.

The overarching focus of the programme is on small and micro enterprises, designed to enhance growth. To deliver on this objective, the establishment of a local resource centre, for use by local SMMEs and communities at large, will support this drive to aid development, whilst the provision of accredited skills training will be provided to start-up businesses.

The 50MW De Wildt Solar project comprises 169 140 solar modules that draw from the intense North West sun, producing enough power to satisfy the needs of around 84 000 average South African households. The solar plant is expected to feed 123 GWh per year of much-needed green electricity into the country’s national power grid, via Eskom’s Zolograph switching station. It is part of the government’s renewable energy independent power producer procurement programme (REIPPPP), which launched a decade ago and has successfully procured over 6.4GW of independent clean power.

Around 400 people from the local beneficiary communities were directly employed on the project during construction. This is in addition to the employment created through the contracting out of various services. 

De Wildt Solar is owned by African Infrastructure Investment Managers (AIIM, a member of Old Mutual Alternative Investments) through its IDEAS Fund, Reatile Solar Power (RF) (Pty) Ltd, Phakwe Solar (RF) (Pty) Ltd, AREP (African Rainbow Energy and Power) and Cicada Community Trust.

View more

African Rainbow Energy and Power acquires stake in SOLA Group

As South Africa transitions its energy usage to cleaner sources, there is a dire need for new energy generation solutions, collaboration, technology, and investment in renewable energy. A critical component of this will be to address the challenges of energy security and job creation in the country.

Understanding this tremendous challenge and opportunity in investing in the renewables sector, African Rainbow Energy and Power (AREP) has expanded its investment in this sector with the acquisition of a strategic stake in the SOLA Group. The companies joined forces at the end of 2020, with AREP acquiring a 40% stake and becoming the largest individual shareholder in the group. The deal also includes a significant investment into the group to fund further expansion.

“The transaction with SOLA allows us to benefit from the utilisation of modern technology to provide affordable electricity, as well as benefit from their expertise in solar photovoltaics (PV). This also supports our strategic focus on delivering clean energy for the commercial and industrial sectors,” said Brian Dames, CEO of AREP.

“AREP and SOLA share a vision of using the latest, cleanest technology available to deliver excellent climate and business returns – both for our clients and shareholders,” added Dames.  

AREP is an African based energy company focused on clean energy solutions, with a portfolio of 740MW of renewable investments (including wind, solar PV and biomass) providing affordable energy through the utilisation of modern and renewable energy technologies.

The SOLA Group has been awarded 245MW REIPPPP projects, 78MW commercial solar PV and 7MWh storage projects, respectively. Having started with only four employees in 2008, SOLA now employs over 70 people on a permanent basis, with additional employment of between 30 and 100 staff during the construction of projects.

“Our company is greatly strengthened through this partnership,” said Dom Wills, CEO of the SOLA Group. “There is very good strategic fit between SOLA and AREP, and the investment comes at the perfect time for a 100% South African-owned private utility to step up and play a meaningful role in tackling our electricity challenges.”

Powering economic growth

The transaction comes at a time where the lack of energy security and price uncertainty are limiting economic growth. Renewable energy, and particularly solar PV, has seen huge gains in efficiency, cost effectiveness and speed of deployment – ultimately providing sustainable solutions to help bolster the country’s energy supply.

Many large energy users are opting to procure power privately. Solar PV has the ability to make extra power available faster than other options, including coal and nuclear.

“South Africans need the cheapest power available from a variety of competitive sources, which can happen through government or private energy procurement. SOLA’s strategy and service offering accommodates both models,” adds Wills.

Power in power

The transaction will also see two AREP Directors joining SOLA’s board. “We are excited to tap into the wealth of experience that AREP bring to our company. For our young company, this is as valuable as the financial investment will be,” Wills explains.

SOLA recently announced a landmark deal with Amazon, in the first ever solar PV wheeling project in South Africa.  The group will provide 10MW of clean solar power to the global company from a dedicated solar PV facility.

View more

Waterloo Solar begins commercial operations to boost green energy supply

Waterloo Solar, located 10km outside of Vryburg, in the North West province, has commenced its commercial operations, becoming the latest utility-scale solar PV project in South Africa.

This 100% South African-owned solar project in the North West province, brings the total number of large-scale projects constructed in this province to three, in just one year. Boasting 261 360 solar modules, harnessing the intense North West sun, this 75MW project is set to generate enough electricity to power 84 000 homes, via the national grid, each year.

Not only will the solar plant boost the renewable energy sector’s power production, but it will also benefit the rural communities located within a 50km radius of the plant through impactful economic development programmes. During its 20-year operations period, the project will focus on empowering and strengthening the local communities of Vryburg, Kismet Park, Huhudi, Coleridge, and Dithakwaneng within the Naledi Local Municipal area.

Covid-19 humanitarian initiatives, in partnership with various local community NGOs and the Department of Social Development, were supported and funded to benefit a number of these communities, during the project’s construction period.

Additionally, hundreds of local high school learners received career development, which provided Grade 11 and Grade 12 learners with support tools for making improved subject choices linked to personal interests and strengths, in the senior phase of high school. 

Speaking on behalf of the North West Department of Education, the Naledi sub-district manager Fhatuwani Makhado, commended the quality and necessity of the implemented programme that took place across four schools in the district.

Situated on a 171-hectare site, the project was constructed in under two years, having commenced mid-February 2019.  It is connected to Eskom’s Mookodi switching station, which feeds the generated power into the country’s national grid.

At the peak of construction over 500 people, mostly from the surrounding local beneficiary communities, were directly employed.  This is in addition to the employment created through the contracting out of various services. 

During Waterloo Solar’s 20-year operations period, socio-economic development projects will continue to focus on education, as well as youth development, health, food security, and welfare. The programmes have been chosen following research and engagement to ensure that they are well informed and will strengthen the beneficiary communities.

Additionally, a percentage of the revenue generated each year will be committed to implementing enterprise development initiatives, to build resilience and accelerate the growth and success of entrepreneurial businesses, ultimately stimulating local economic growth and creating opportunities for the economic participation of previously disadvantaged groups. The focus is on small and micro enterprises, designed to enhance growth. To deliver on this objective, the establishment of a local resource centre, for use by local SMMEs and communities at large, will support this drive to aid development, whilst the provision of accredited skills training will be provided to start-up businesses.

Waterloo Solar is owned by African Infrastructure Investment Managers (AIIM, a member of Old Mutual Alternative Investments) through its IDEAS Fund, Reatile Solar Power (RF) (Pty) Ltd, Phakwe Solar (RF) (Pty) Ltd, AREP (African Rainbow Energy and Power) and Cicada Community Trust.

The project achieved full quality and grid-code compliance by local Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contractor Juwi Renewable Energies on 21 November 2020 and is part of the government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme. It will be operated and maintained, on behalf of the owners, by the Juwi O&M subsidiary company, for the first five years of operations.

View more

Wake up. The sun is shining

OPINION PIECE | Wido Schabel, Chairperson of SAPVIA

In 1992, the phrase, “It’s the economy, stupid” was painted by James Carville, Bill Clinton’s political strategist, on the walls of the presidential campaign office. With South Africa facing the most challenging economic climate for generations, we need now more than ever to come together and plaster that slogan everywhere to remind every single individual what is at stake if we fail to act.

If you think I am being dramatic, then you have not been listening or looking around you, because right now we as individuals, citizens, and elected representatives risk missing out on a route to economic upliftment for all citizens. The time for self-reflection, slow and steady, incremental changes, and initiatives is over.

We have gone too slow for too long.

We have wasted valuable time not addressing one of the building blocks of our economy and our individual prosperity, looking for piecemeal solutions, patching a system that is not fit for purpose and hampering our businesses and lifestyles with the constant strain of load-shedding.

Enough is enough.

Today, South Africa is facing a crisis on three fronts. We face an energy crisis, an economic crisis, and an unemployment crisis.

One of these alone would be a hurdle for the government to overcome, but together they present us with unprecedented challenges that will require a concerted effort, innovative thinking, and speed.

And the answer, my friends, is literally staring us in the face.

We have everything we need to not only work our way out of the recession that is coming but to actually improve the situation for every individual and elevate our standing internationally as well.

As a priority, we must increase energy capacity and diversify our energy forms. We urgently need to move away from our dependence on finite fossil fuels. That is not a question, but how we do so and how we alleviate the impact of the decommissioning of coal mines is up for discussion.

The question on everyone’s lips is where the jobs come from to replace the value chain created by the coal sector. We must ensure that the transition is just and that no one gets left behind, and in this renewable energy represents not only a sustainable source, it also creates jobs right across the value chain.

Take for example Solar PV. With some 11GW of coal to be decommissioned by 2030, renewable energy can step into the breach. Not only will the 16GW wind, 6GW solar PV utility, and 6GW distributed generation more than compensate for the loss of coal, but will also create the much-needed increase in capacity we need to enable a functioning economy.

More importantly, the jobs created by these energy sources are plentiful. SAPVIA has commissioned a jobs study which we anticipate will report that utility-scale solar PV projects can generate between 7-14 jobs per MW capacity, commercial projects between 10-12 jobs, while residential projects could create up to 14 jobs per MW.

These numbers are not to be sniffed at and we could use the current energy crisis as the impetus we need to make a step-change and address the fundamental flaws in our infrastructure and economy.

Not least because, as we seek foreign investment to support our under-performing economy our downgraded status, and the lack of functioning infrastructure in place, means that any promises of investment will surely come to nothing.

Why would any investor set up when they cannot rely on a stable electrical supply to enable their business to function? And for us here in South Africa, we are continually hampered by load-shedding that leaves us unable to operate and sustain our own businesses.

And as the economy shrinks our unemployment levels soar. The young are especially affected by joblessness with almost 50% unemployment, but across the board, we see too many people out of work and unable to lift themselves out of poverty and improve their circumstances.

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, unemployment levels will more than likely double, plunging us into an even deeper crisis.

So where do we go from here?

While it might sound like I am the harbinger of doom, I am not. I firmly believe that South Africa is on the cusp of seizing an unprecedented opportunity. We are sitting on the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. A pot filled with natural, mineral and human resources.

I often say there is enough sun in Africa for us all, and when you add in our abundant wind, you can see that when it comes to natural resources our cup over-floweth. Harnessing these natural resources must be a priority if we are to emerge from the crisis.

But that’s not all we have right under our feet. Here in South Africa, we have access to the very mineral resources required to create and store the energy created from renewable sources. Platinum and Vanadium are the fundamentals required for battery energy storage systems and we have them in abundance.

Even better, we can actually become not just energy-independent but also an energy exporter, able to sell and improve our economic prosperity by shipping green energy abroad.

All of this would mean nothing if we didn’t have the people to set up the organisations to deliver the required renewable projects and maximise on the abundant resources we have available.

South Africa’s diverse population is filled with entrepreneurial, resourceful and multi-skilled individuals who are ready and waiting for the opportunity to drive forward our economy and put money into their own pockets and their families’.

So what’s holding us back?

We have a plan. The IRP has been out since October. But we’ve been on a go-slow for too long.

Players in the renewables industry stand ready to sprint ahead but are being held back by policy decisions and inertia that must be overcome if we are to emerge from this crisis with fewer people materially affected.

Some might ask where will the money for all this investment in infrastructure come from. We have so many options available to us. Local investors are chomping at the bit to play their part in driving the South African economy forward.

Unfortunately, South Africa is also one of the world’s worst CO2 polluters; fortunately, this means that there are global investment programmes that we can avail of to finance our transition away from a carbon reliant economy.

So again you might ask, what is holding us back?

Why are we missing this opportunity?

Because to me, it is a complete no-brainer for us to put the foot down and turn ideas into action.

Energy, energy, energy needs to be the focus.

Without a robust energy infrastructure, all will fail, from both a micro and macro perspective. We can only build the foundations of a prosperous economy if the building blocks are energy.

The SAPVIA jobs study has shown that the transition to a low carbon economy could create at a minimum of seven jobs per MW capacity. This is a conservative estimate and renewables has the potential to transform the jobs landscape with employment opportunities across the board, invigorating rural communities and offering access to new skills in localities where opportunity has been scarce.

We can and will address the re-skilling and up-skilling of individuals who are affected by the move away from coal and we can and will create an environment of proactive training and skills sharing that will ensure that every individual who wishes to participate in the new economy can do so.

Moving forward will require a concerted effort from government, industry and individuals. We need to all focus on the prize ahead, which will benefit every single individual across South Africa.

At its heart, this will be a just transition, where no one is left behind.

But it requires us to act now.

We cannot wait any longer.

Story image
Schnabel is the Chairperson of the SA Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA).
View more

SOLAR | One change that will change our destiny

Comment piece | Daniel Goldstuck, SAPVIA Grid Access Working Group Chairperson

What if I told you that our energy crisis could be alleviated with one simple change?

Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But, as a professional, with almost a decade of experience working in the energy space, I can tell you that it is that simple.

Every individual across South Africa has felt the ongoing impact of load-shedding, both at home and at work. Surely, there must be insurmountable obstacles or surely we would have solved the issues and be operating at full capacity, with an economy unfettered by load-shedding and increasingly damaging down time.

There is just one single change that the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy can make. A change that would increase power supply, cut future load-shedding by at least two stages and prevent the recent wastage on expensive diesel, all while both saving and creating jobs.

So what is that change?

It is to move the current exemption from licencing from 1 MW to 10MW for energy generation installations.

Currently, 1MW can supply a small mall, while 10MW at the higher end is suitable to feed into a mine or industrial facility.

The Electricity Regulatory Act of 2006 governs the various stakeholders of the electricity supply industry, and regulates participation in the form of licenced activities. One such licenced activity is the generation of electricity, which requires a Generation Licence.

Currently, generation capacity below 1 MW of power is exempt from obtaining a licence, requiring only registration with NERSA (the National Electricity Regulator of South Africa) upon obtaining permission to connect from the local Distribution Licence holder (either Eskom or a municipality) under a Connection or Use of System Agreement.

This is an arbitrary limit set as a policy decision, and has no technical basis.

Operators working in both renewable and traditional energy propose the increase to 10MW because that capacity limit can be absorbed with minimal upgrades by a large number of substations, or nodes on the distribution network. This would also fit within the power consumption profile of many industrial facilities. 

On March 26 2020 the Minister gazetted an amended version of Schedule 2 rationalizing the licencing exemptions applicable to generation facilities under 1 MW. However, disappointingly the 1MW licencing cap remained, missing a valuable opportunity to create lasting benefits to the entire electricity system and avoid serious load-shedding during the day while still allowing some head room for Eskom to carry out necessary maintenance. 

The ministry has previously expressed concerns around protection of the electricity network as well as job and Eskom revenue losses, however, these are all addressable.

Municipalities and Eskom may be concerned that allowing more generation would impact their revenue collection. As it stands, a large municipality shedding 200MW during a load-shedding event costs R40m a week, or R174m a month. Eskom has made provision for up to 8 stages of load-shedding, which will result in the majority of municipalities collecting 0% revenue from most suburbs for significant periods of the day.

And when we look at job creation, those fears can also be addressed. Increasing the share of renewable energy must and will be accompanied by a discussion of a Just Energy Transition to ensure access to affordable energy while enabling all South African citizens to participate in the related economic opportunities. 

All data I have analysed indicates a transition to increased renewable energy percentages or even replacements of coal power stations, will result in net-positive job creation. I agree, serious work needs to be done to ensure the specific individuals impacted are re-skilled in a sustainable environment to be able to re-enter the new economic landscape.

But further, in a scenario where Eskom is shedding 6000MW in the middle of the day, adding MWs to the grid will have almost no impact on existing jobs, and in fact will result in greater job creation (4MW of rooftop projects can keep 31 site-staff employed for a year).

A recent SAPVIA (South African Photovoltaic Industry Association) estimate indicates that this change in legislation, shifting the limit for exemption from 1MW to 10MW, would enable 2000MW of PV to be installed within 12 months.

In the middle of the day, this is enough to shift load-shedding by up to two stages (e.g. from Stage 4 to Stage 2, or from Stage 2 to not at all), reducing the need to run expensive diesel generation if capacity is constrained, but not yet at levels to trigger load-shedding.

This would create jobs for 15,500 site staff, and approximately 2000 office based junior and mid management jobs. I have not yet quantified the job creation potential of related downstream manufacturing and services providers.

Energy would be available from these plants far sooner than energy from any national procurement program currently under discussion.

The Minister and other stakeholders must grasp the opportunity that renewable energy presents, not just from a supply perspective but also because it directly addresses the potential job-losses in the coal sector and the fear of lost revenue at Eskom. Without a fully operating power system, we will have less jobs and less revenue for Eskom. In contrast, with the appropriate legislation, we can create a much more robust electricity supply environment catering to multiple requirements of economic growth.

If the grid can absorb the power, the municipalities can continue selling power and jobs can be created, all while avoiding a further crisis at no actual cost to the government or tax-payer, why would we not make one simple change?

Changing one number, on one piece of legislation, can deliver wins on all the levels required.

  • Goldstuck is the Grid Access Working Group Chairperson at the SA Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA), an organisation representing the solar PV industry in South Africa.
View more

Solar energy and storage company announces new name

IMPower Pty Ltd is proud to announce a name change as the company was formerly known as All Power Systems.  The name change is effective from the 3rd of February 2020. The name change came as a result of a name clash with a South African based firm that had a very similar name and offered similar solutions. 

Founded in 2014, IMPower Pty Ltd is a leading engineering, procurement and project management contractor (EPCM) operating in the solar and energy storage industry.  The company is focusing more on providing Solar Rooftop/Ground Mount Solutions (Grid-Tied), Micro-Grid/Storage Solutions, Energy Management & Reporting as well as Project Development & Financing

The Chief Executive Officer of IMPower Pty Ltd, Jay Naidoo, explained that there had been some confusion in the market place that made it necessary to change the name as quickly as possible. 

“As mentioned above, we will continue with our services, with our primary focus on providing Commercial and Industrial (C&I) clients with tailored, expert energy solutions,” said Naidoo.

“Our engineered solutions incorporate not only world-leading products and engineering methodologies but also our set of value-based principles, integrity, honesty and respect, ensuring that your system is built to last and matches your expectations”, he continued.

View more

Micro-Grid Solutions in Africa

Micro-grid and off-grid home solar systems are being rapidly deployed in Africa where power utilities have failed to keep up with demand. Many Africans are still without electricity or still struggling to access electricity especially in rural communities. The only solution to this is by introducing micro-grid energy.

While South Africa has the highest electricity consumption in the sub-Sahara region, the demand continues to outpace the installation of generation capacity. Africa is rich in renewable energy sources which remain the most economical approach for powering micro-grids. However, the development of micro-grids faces several barriers that must be unpacked.

Chief Executive Officer, Jay Naidoo, explained that energy poverty is a universal issue and that it affects the rural areas too far from the main grid and too expensive to electrify by extending the main grid. 

“Micro-grids are emerging as an effective off-grid solution that can close the energy poverty gap and can supplement the existing electrification program,” said Naidoo.

Naidoo added that further research and development is needed for the micro-grids of the communities.  

When these micro-grids are combined with batteries/generators or other grid systems, they can produce or provide an affordable source of power.

“Unfortunately, the continent is trailing behind most others with regards to energy security, bringing about an increase in awareness to provide energy to the millions of African people without it. The most common challenge the African energy sector continues to face is funding for energy projects,” Naidoo continued.

Many African countries have seen rapid and meaningful economic growth in the last decade, and to ensure the sustainability of this growth, these economies rely heavily on accessible, affordable and efficient energy. Urgent investment and research are required into the scalability of microgrids in rural and highly people dense areas to help prevent mass power outages such as the ongoing load shedding that has become a permanent occurrence in the South African power landscape.

View more

VIDEO | The thrilling potential for off-grid solar energy

Amar Inamdar | TEDGlobal 2017

There’s an energy revolution happening in villages and towns across Africa — off-grid solar energy is becoming a viable alternative to traditional electricity systems. In a bold talk about a true leapfrog moment, Amar Inamdar introduces us to proud owners of off-grid solar kits — and explains how this technology has the opportunity to meet two extraordinary goals: energy access for all and a low-carbon future.

“Every household a proud producer as well as consumer of energy,” Inamdar says. “That’s the democracy of energy.”

(Followed by a brief Q&A with TED Curator Chris Anderson)

View more