South Africa has one of the best solar resources in the world, photovoltaic modules are the cheapest they have ever been with the landed price dropping more than 50% in the last year and  grid connected systems are now at or very near to grid parity where the cost of electricity produced from privately-owned rooftop PV modules is equal to, or less than, the cost that the consumer would be paying for electricity from the grid.

South Africa has one of the best solar resources in the world, photovoltaic modules are the cheapest they have ever been with the landed price dropping more than 50% in the last year and grid connected systems are now at or very near to grid parity where the cost of electricity produced from privately-owned rooftop PV modules is equal to, or less than, the cost that the consumer would be paying for electricity from the grid.

Furthermore, with the spectre of loadshedding looming once again due to a strained electricity grid and with the broad-based economic and social benefits which could flow from a robust rooftop renewable energy market, it is difficult to see why South Africa hasn’t grasped the rooftop opportunity as much as Germany which has a far lesser solar resource, yet where ordinary citizens now own half of the country’s renewable energy generation capacity. Rooftop PV technology is mature and easy to deploy, far easier than building new coal-fired or nuclear power plants, and presents real opportunity for South Africa’s energy and socio-economic aspirations which are tightly linked.

Yet onerous legal requirements in some instances, massive amounts of red tape and the lack of over-arching policy is holding us back. Furthermore, some local authorities derive a disproportionate amount of their revenue from electricity sales which serves to cross subsidise other essential services and serves as a disincentive to promote the self generation agenda. These are all obstacles which need to be urgently overcome.

However, despite the obstacles, private entities and individuals are starting to install rooftop PV and are connecting them to the grid and it currently makes sense to do so. This practice not only improves their green credentials, but reduces energy costs and enhances the security of their supply. The payback time for a grid connected system at the current rate per kWh is now 5 to 7 years and if you can afford the up front investment, you’ll be generating electricity for free after that. Encouragingly, the major financial institutions are starting to look at innovative finance schemes in order to get over the initial upfront cost hurdle of installing the necessary equipment.