Load shedding has really put a spanner in the works. You may be working from home or running a business that requires a constant supply of electricity and then unexpectedly load shedding strikes.
South Africa has already experienced at least 25 days of load shedding from the beginning of January this year until the end of April.
This was four days fewer compared to the same period last year.
During a media briefing on Wednesday, Eskom chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer said South Africans should expect more days of load shedding this winter period due to Eskom’s “unreliable and unpredictable” generation capacity.
Speaking to The Citizen, Teresa Settas, marketing director of One Energy Group, said many people are looking for back-up power solutions to see them through the unpredictable and productivity-killing Eskom load shedding.
“They are fed up with the rocketing costs of electricity and mooted penalties for making alternative arrangements to get the power that Eskom cannot reliably or affordably supply,” she said.
Besides load shedding and the likelihood it will be with us for a long time still, the ongoing price hikes is another bone of contention for most consumers.
Now more than ever could be the right time to move off the grid and try alternative supplies of electricity.
“Eskom’s ongoing energy supply woes are also unlikely to be resolved in the near term, so South Africans either need to learn to live with load shedding, or take steps to reduce their reliance on the utility grid,” Settas said.
She says consumers can invest in an energy back-up solution but with a long-term view to getting you closer to greater grid independence. This is a step-by-step process, she advises.
Settas says spending R30,000 on an unsuitable back-up solution today detracts from your ultimate objective of grid independence and self-sufficiency.
As a start, she suggests you go for an effective and affordable scalable, solar photovoltaic system (PV) hybrid solution that takes care of your immediate needs. This allows you to scale up in future to self-generation by adding solar panels and additional batteries if needed.
“Initially go for a system that is configured as a back-up uninterruptible power supply (UPS) solution to provide backup during outages. Then as your budget allows, expand it with solar panels to generate your own power, providing back up and saving you a fortune in electricity costs,” Settas said.
What is important is that although you may be out to save money you should be prepared to pay for a qualified renewable energy partner with a solid, long-standing track record in the industry and that will be around to support your system for many years to come.
Settas says as a start you can invest in a 5W Sunsynk inverter with a 3.6kWh Batterich li-ion battery which costs around R71,000 including professional installation and all the required electrical protection. She warns that buying a cheap inverter is a waste of money because it will cost more over time and is unlikely to be expandable at a later stage.
Explaining how it works, she says that it is initially configured as a UPS. However it has a charge controller which means it can take solar panels at a later stage to operate as a hybrid solar system.
“It also provides clean power and is perfectly suited for sensitive electronic equipment like computers, routers, fridges, TVs and so on,” she says.
Adding 4kW of solar panels will cost around R50,000 fully installed with the necessary railings and electrical protection.
To add an additional 3.6kWh li-ion battery if needed at a later stage you have to budget around R19,000.
“If you want to radically reduce your monthly electricity costs at the same time and take your grid independence to the next level, take your water heating off the grid with a solar geyser.
“An electric geyser accounts for 30-40% of your monthly electricity usage in your home, so this is the most crucial starting point to reducing your daily electricity load. This means you can also buy a smaller and more affordable PV solution. A 200 litre solar geyser fully installed is around R27,000.”
By adding solar panels later, your system will generate its own electricity and charge your batteries using the sun’s energy, not the grid.
Here you have it, you need at least R100,000 or so to get started and build up step-by-step towards independence from Eskom.
Don’t fall victim to a bad deal
Settas says there has been an explosion of ‘mom-and-pop’ contractors that have suddenly sprung up trying to cash in on the renewables boom, warning consumers not to fall victim to cheap deals that are just too good to be true.
“We regularly see PV deals with battery back-up being punted at prices that are simply not realistic or sustainable. There are many ‘drop-and-go’ importers who are bringing in cheap solutions and outdated technology from manufacturers who have absolutely no presence or technical support and back up in South Africa, and installers / distributors who do not have the financial strength to stand by any warranty claims or product failures,” she said.
Settas lists the following important considerations you should look at before making a decision:
- The NRS-097 regulations specify which inverters are approved to be connected to the grid. When the NRS regulations are enforced nationally (they are already in the Western Cape) – a non-approved inverter will essentially be an illegal, non-compliant connection.
- Safety and Compliance is key. You are connecting a rooftop electricity plant to your most valuable asset – your home or business – so you don’t want to get it wrong. Remember that a non-compliant system has significant implications for your insurance cover if things go wrong and you need to claim.
- Every component in your system needs to be compatible – not every inverter is compatible with every battery, not every inverter can be expanded with solar panels, and in fact even different makes of electricity meters can prove problematic. You need to deal with an expert who knows their stuff – no one becomes a specialist in six months.
- Check whether your provider is registered and a current member of professional industry bodies such as SAPVIA. Does your provider have PV Greencard certified installers? Is there a qualified electrician to do the electrical work and provide a COC?
- Check that solar panels are compliant with IEC standards. Is your inverter compliant with NRS-097 regulations which define which inverters are approved to be legally connected to the grid? Is your solar geyser SABS-approved? Is your installation done according to SANS-standards?
- Check whether your provider has a CRM system which records the detailed installation and service history of your system, which means consistent quality control, warranty management and business continuity for you.
*Additional reporting by Xanet Scheepers.
This article was originally published on 25 March 2021 and has been updated with new information.