OPINION: The cost of solar system components has dropped by as much as 80% over the past decade, while at the same time, technology has become more efficient, writes Vincent Maposa.
The endless daily headlines around load shedding make for grim reading. Everything from the devastating economic impact on businesses to the effect of rolling blackouts in homes is unquestionably frustrating. However, history teaches us that necessity is the mother of invention, as we are forced to think differently.
For everyone glancing at their day’s load shedding schedule the time to re-imagine our electricity supply has arrived, provided these innovations are sustainable for the planet and affordable for the people.
Globally, the deployment of solar-powered solutions has become a non-negotiable imperative, as the world attempts to fight climate change and transition from an over-reliance on non-renewable resources.
The signs of a shift in approach are clear. This year, ahead of the 27th Conference of Parties (COP27), to be held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, there are already strong signals from the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference that fewer private, public or multilateral investors will finance power generation based on fossil fuels in the future.
Currently, 40% of South Africa’s climate-threatening CO2 is emitted from the country’s power generation facilities because these facilities are mainly coal-based.
Locally, we face the uncomfortable reality that, according to new research from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), South Africa has the world’s most polluting power utility. The bid to save the planet from the dangerous warming effect of these emissions means South Africa must prioritise clean, affordable, and reliable energy for everyone.
Thankfully, load shedding is inspiring home-grown talent to innovate more rapidly, creating an unexpectedly bright great light after years in the dark.
For most SMMEs and households the need to switch to solar power is unquestionable. This is why we have seen an increasing number of South Africans actively seeking out innovation in the renewable energy space.
The country needs a reliable power solution that combats power outages and price hikes, and this urgency is powering the growth of hybrid solar products capable of operating for extended periods of time. With greater adoption of green technology, the country can position itself firmly ahead of the global curve.
Ultimately, SMMEs should be able to maximise every operational hour, while residential customers should no longer have to have to make a daily choice between saving the food in their fridge versus powering up their TVs and laptops.
Resorting to generators, uninterrupted power supplies (UPSs), inverters and batteries, with their limitations, will no longer suffice as a long-term answer. Instead, hybrid solar solutions must be deployed to leverage the functionality of the existing power grid with the incredible local average of 2500 hours of yearly sunlight.
The widespread transition towards green energy will of course require a financial buffer for both business and home users of electricity. This is why the ability to independently generate and use uninterrupted solar energy affordably must be a power made more easily accessible.
This is fortunately a new reality made possible with rooftop solar power installations that include energy storage modules to ensure the system transitions smoothly, meaning that users are unable to tell when there is load shedding or any power outage.
Traditionally, solar-powered solutions were seen as expensive and impractical, and they were.
Fortunately, a perfect opportunity storm has converged as the cost of solar system components has dropped by as much as 80% over the past decade, while at the same time, technology has become more efficient.
This decrease in costs, coupled with intuitive technology has led to the capability to aggregate hundreds of distributed home systems into a plant similar to a commercial or industrial plant. This collective benefit can even be looked at it like Ubuntu, in a way it’s never been applied before.
The renewable energy industry has reached a point at which ordinary South Africans can afford to start the solar journey, without the barrier of up-front costs, putting rooftop solar systems within the reach of millions. That switch from the famous load shedding app to an app that actively manages your power usage will be deeply satisfying for many. The time to switch to solar is now.
South Africans anxiously awaiting the next exasperating hike in electricity rates will feel the relief where it matters most – in their pockets. Ultimately, the economic incentive is set to drive growth in the renewable energy sector. In doing so, South Africa can outpace the world in solar adoption which in turn has tremendous implications for the environment.
“The transformation from the global polluter to a shining example of progress is revolutionary. It is an opportunity to once again remind the world of what’s possible when South Africa defies the odds and unites around a common cause.
* Vincent Maposa is the CEO of technology start up Wetility.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL or of title sites.
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