Several years ago when talking to senior management of ZESA (the national power company of Zimbabwe) the subject of solar water heaters was discussed. One ‘what if scenarios’ was, could solar water heaters benefit the limited power supply if the hydro from Kariba MW output fell? Not surprisingly the answer was ‘Yes’ but at what cost, and with Zimbabwe’s economy in a very fragile state, little if any monies could be found to incentivize consumers to go solar. Nothing happened.
It should be simple in the highly competitive growing market of solar rooftop PV to get a handle on the costs but the reality is that despite budgeting costs being straightforward, due to regulatory confusion, restrictions on feed in tariffs (FIT’s), and amounts (kW) that can be fed in, as well as other factors, determining the return on investment (ROI), and potential payback (time to recover the investment), is complex.
It should be simple to understand, but when it comes to solar renewables, particularly solar water heaters, and to a lesser extent rooftop solar PV, the question of what it ‘actually’ costs seems to get lost. Almost always the first question is ‘What does it cost?”. End consumers and even government tenders are fixated by the ‘sticker’ cost, in much the same way as looking at a car in the showroom, or even a utility item like a washing machine. The wrong question is being asked. The far more meaningful question is “What is the Return on the Investment”.
Droughts, floods, hail, extreme storms, increasing frequency of hurricanes, tornadoes and weather catastrophes are all problems for the insurance industry. Climate change is happening, and with temperatures in Johannesburg reaching all time records, at the time of writing 37°C (October 6th 2015), following Cape Town in March 2015 of 42,3 °C, combined at the same time with record floods in the South of France and in South Carolina, skeptics take note. Whether the cause is global warming, El Nino, from natural causes such as volcanoes, or more probably from man made carbons, nobody can conclusively prove, but the probability lies with both.