Renewable energy retailers record a sharp increase in sales

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Renewable energy retailers have recorded a sharp increase in sales from South Africans acquiring products to keep the lights on. This is amid rolling blackouts from power utility Eskom.

Some homes are experiencing as many as six to eight hours of rolling blackouts per day, forcing many families to fork out thousands of rand to generate their own power.  Planned power cuts by South Africa’s state-owned power utility, Eskom, have left businesses and households without electricity for more than six hours daily.

Eskom introduced the latest round of power cuts last month after generation units in three power plants broke down. A strike by employees exacerbated the problem, leaving consumers in the dark. While this has frustrated many, others have used it as an opportunity to begin the process of reducing their reliance on the state-owned power utility, by going green.

Experts say, the sun provides more than enough energy to meet the planet’s energy needs, and unlike fossil fuels, it won’t run out anytime soon.

Hence solar power has been identified as an efficient renewable energy source. The only limitation is the ability to convert it to electricity in a cost-effective way.

Supplementing electricity 

Managing Director at EE Business Intelligence and Energy Analyst Chris Yelland says, citizens supplementing their own electricity will not only reduce pressure on the power grid but also lessen municipal bills.

“People should not be talking about going off the grid. Citizens and households and businesses can become what we call a grid hide system. This means that you can supplement your electricity needs by generating a certain amount of electricity yourself.”

Yelland explains the cheapest most effective way to begin the process is going green. He says light bulbs are the starting point.

“The first thing one does is focus on energy efficiency. That is going to save quite a bit of money. The most common way is to have energy-efficient lights and install a gas cooking facility. If and when your electric geyser fails, I recommend you replace it with a solar hot water geyser. Once you reduce your electricity consumption to the minimum, the next step is to separate your essential load from your non-essential load. Then put in solar pv and batteries for your essential load only.”

Going green

While going complete solar will become a costly exercise, families can make small inexpensive changes at home in an effort to go green. These include home insulation which will reduce your heater and electric blanket usage.

Unplugging cell phone chargers and other cables when not in use, turn off your lights if you’re not in a room, switch your oven off on time and recycle water.

The Naidoo family from Randburg Gauteng has been saving for years to begin the process of making their home more energy efficient. They have taken small steps towards their goal of installing solar panels.

Shaldon Naidoo explains the energy and water savings initiatives they have introduced in their home which has already seen a reduction in their utility bill.

“The first thing I did was to take out the old light bulbs and replace them with LEDs. I bought solar lights for the outside, I try to get one every month. I generally leave no lights on at night; I use the light when I’m in that room at the time. We use water, if I’m cooking, if there is extra water in the drain, I throw it into the garden. I bought a gas stove, I had to save for a few months, and I’m slowly starting to see the difference in my bill.”

More households are looking for alternative ernegy options as Eskom struggles to keep lights on:

Increase in demand for solar products

Meanwhile, Johannesburg renewable energy retailer Riaz Moosajee says, his company has seen an increase in demand for solar products as South Africans are now becoming more desperate to keep their lights on.

“We have seen a substantial increase in solar products. Everything in renewable energy, people want to get their hands on, where it is full home solar systems, inverters, hybrid inverters, and lithium batteries, anything that can keep the lights on.”

While many are opting for generators, Moosajee says, the current cost of fuel is making the product more expensive to operate, costing a family at least R300 per day. He explains how families can begin to generate their own electricity within a budget that suits their pocket.

“A good starting point would be to acquire a good quality inverter system with a battery. Also advisable is to buy a solar geyser or gas. For middle-income families to start looking at solar, number one is to minimise Eskom reliance. That means looking at LED’s, use solar to power all the outside lights at home. Once you get your house as green as possible, then the cost to start a solar system becomes less expensive. Whether it’s a person in a small village or a huge mansion, there is a solution for everyone to have some type of renewable energy at a cost that’s affordable to them as well”

Experts say, while full solar energy is the goal for many homes, it’s important to first migrate appliances that consume the most energy, to gas. Many Johannesburg families are already making the shift month by month, one appliance at a time which is saving money saving in the long term.

Meanwhile, following a closed meeting with President Cyril Ramaphosa last week, Eskom CEO Andrew de Ruyter told the media that rolling blackouts likely to be suspended this week.