Seeing the light: Mark Bleloch and Leigh de Decker expect their solar investment to be paid off in less than five years. (David Harrison, M&G)
Eskom may be in a shambles and electricity prices are likely to skyrocket, but for some domestic consumers solar power is saving them thousands of rands – and the planet thousands of kilograms of carbon – each month.
The hefty cost savings and shift to renewable energy is being made possible by the City of Cape Town’s small-scale embedded generation programme (SSEG), which was launched late last year. It allows residents and commercial users, with installations such as solar photovoltaic (PV) systems or small wind turbines, to sell power back to the grid.
But municipalities have traditionally relied on electricity revenues to subsidise their other services and the potential loss of revenue has been a major hurdle, which has prevented many local governments from implementing similar projects, even though it would reduce stress on the grid and help them to go green.
Renewable energy specialists believe the old model is not sustainable. As electricity prices continue to rise, coupled with poor supply, “creeping grid defection” threatens municipalities’ long-term financial viability, as more customers opt to generate their own power.
Constantia residents Leigh de Decker and her partner Mark Bleloch were among the first to sign up with the city after installing a 6.3 kilowatt (kW) system, with 21 solar panels, on their property.