Latest developments from the South African PV sector

Eskom recently warned that it lacks the budget to fuel the country’s backup power plants, with remaining diesel stocks now being reserved for emergencies only. Unless the electricity supplier receives significant funding, even higher stages of blackouts with the potential to plunge millions into darkness could be imminent.

Although the government has been working on plans to meet energy demands and climate targets by expanding South Africa’s renewable energy infrastructure with solar and wind power investments, this transition cannot happen overnight. As a result, power outages are expected to continue for the next year at least.

So, what does the country’s current energy landscape look like — and what role does solar power play in ensuring supplies meet demand?

Making the transition to renewable energy

Currently, the rollout of renewable energy infrastructure in South Africa is not happening fast enough to mitigate the impact of load shedding, and experts have declared a state of disaster for the national grid.

Coal power is still South Africa’s primary source of energy. However, the country’s coal-fired plants are severely depleted and inefficient — not to mention harmful to the environment. As the most polluting fossil fuel, coal is responsible for over 0.3°C of the 1°C increase in global average temperatures.

South Africa’s water and food insecurity make it especially vulnerable to climate change. Ironically, it is the regions that contribute least to fossil fuel consumption that are suffering the most. Only around 32% of rural areas in the South African Development Community (SADC) regions have access to electricity. Yet, they are already experiencing higher frequencies of severe droughts and floods due to climate change.

As a result, plans to bolster the country’s clean energy supplies are stepping up. At the COP27 environmental conference earlier this month, President Cyril Ramaphosa met with leaders from the International Partners Group (IPG) to discuss South Africa’s Just Energy Transition (JET) strategy for ending the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels.

Part of this plan is the retirement of several unreliable coal-fired power stations and the development of new solar and wind energy plants to take their place. But despite the progress toward renewable energy, it will likely be a long time before we see an end to power outages and disruption.

Taking control of South Africa’s energy supply

Last month, Eskom estimated that the nation requires 53 gigawatts of renewable capacity by 2032 to make up for plant closures and reach an adequate level of supply. According to US Department of Energy estimates, this is equivalent to 166 million solar panels.

Renewable energy plants must be built rapidly to meet this target, but this process is reliant on investments from other governments and the private sector. Eskom’s managing director, Segomoco Scheppers, said that the power utility needs R72 billion to expand and strengthen the transmission grid by 2027 — and that is just the start.

As a result, many individuals and organisations are taking matters into their own hands. Thanks to the growing availability and affordability of PV panels, people all over the country are installing their own solar energy systems to escape load shedding and alleviate the strain on the national grid.

For example, South Africa’s largest retailer, Shoprite, has increased its solar capacity by 82% in the last year by installing 143,674 square metres of solar panels across its sites — giving it enough power to run the equivalent of 3,375 households in a year.

In August, global gold producer Gold Fields completed the construction of its Khanyisa solar plant to power its South Deep mine, cutting 24% of electricity costs and reducing its carbon emissions by over 110,000 tonnes.

Even one of South Africa’s oldest wine estates, Crede en Lust, has transitioned. The project includes a 1,500 square metre solar installation, including 1,000 solar panels, three large inverters, cables and frames — and has turned a profit after just four years.

As outages and disruption continue, we expect to see more PV projects like these going ahead. So, what is SegenSolar doing to help meet this growing demand?

Answering the call for reliable solar power

As one of South Africa’s leading suppliers of PV panels and equipment for commercial and residential applications, we are thrilled to support home and business owners as they take control of their energy needs and transition to solar power.

SegenSolar is a one-stop shop for our customers’ PV system needs. By working with leading PV manufacturers and brands, we provide a portfolio of state-of-the-art, high-quality solar equipment — from solar panels to inverters and the mounting solutions needed to install them safely and securely.

Our mission is to bring consistent, dependable solar energy to every corner of South Africa and beyond. We are already operating in several SADC member states and hope to expand our reach to more communities to offer reliable, sustainable clean energy alternatives to those that need them.

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