Big hit in electricity prices

A big hit in electricity prices is expected in 2020 in South Africa; and every year after that with Eskom in big trouble. This article was first published in the Witness in the column by Bernard Preston entitled Our Green Home.

Never was there a better time to go solar. Prices of panels have risen due to the week rand but excellent lithium batteries and inverters are manufactured right here in SA.

With the City stating that they need over a billion rand, which they obviously don’t have, to upgrade their ageing infrastructure which has “reached the end of its life,” things are only going to get worse with the added widespread vandalism and theft of electricity.

You could tomorrow put in 5kW of panels with a 7.4 kW lithium ion battery and a 5 kW inverter, for around R170,000. You do the numbers and you’ll find the return far better than anything the stock exchange can offer. Go for more if you can afford it.

2.5kW of west-facing solar panels.

Add to that the Nersa blunder which is definitely going to mean an extra 15% rise next year on top of the normal increase; talk is that it could be as much as 50% over the next three years, a huge escalation for a rapidly deteriorating service.

We recommend that you stay on the grid, but go for prepaid electricity; you pay only for what you use in inclement weather and when you need to use the oven at night, for example. Only turn on the mains switch when you need power to help avert surges.

Assuming you also have vacuum-tubes for heating the geyser, your electrical consumption will be less than R100 per month; near to zero in the winter months provided the good wife does not insist on using the dishwasher at night.

It does mean gladly accepting certain limitations, otherwise you will be frustrated that you have to do your roasting in daylight; and other heavy power users. Or buy a second battery but they aren’t cheap. Is washing the dishes the old-fashioned way now and then so dreadful?

We have been on this junket for eight years now, starting small and gradually adding to our system. We now celebrate being freed from the mismanagement at City Hall, their hugely problematic billing-system and the woes at Eskom; let them do their worst, it no longer affects us. It is an investment in peace of mind when the grid fails, and the health of the planet. It has been a fascinating journey, one that I wholeheartedly recommend.

A power surge from the utility.

I can honestly say we don’t even notice when the grid fails, unless it has been cloudy. Sell the generator.

One debate to consider is which way the panels should face. Traditionally you would think definitely north. However, most of the power use is in the morning and late afternoon. Ideally I would recommend having half of your PVs towards the equator, and a quarter each directed east and west; but that does mean an extra regulator. Others have different opinions.

The east and west-facing solar panels work remarkably well even when they are getting weak, oblique sunshine.

If you plan to use the electric mower on solar, as we do, you will need a larger than 5kW inverter. The surplus in the middle of the day runs the pool pump and chlorinator; and charges the E-car that has landed in our backyard.

Has the time come to stop grumbling about load-shedding, unplanned blackouts and power surges? And price increases that are certain, and actually do something? Build it yourself if you are handy, but first get a quote from a reputable installer who will charge you for his services, but because he’s done hundreds of systems, knows what he is about. The lithium battery requires a professional to install for the guarantee to be valid. 

Big hit in electricity prices

Big hit in electricity prices with 50% rise in the next three years predicted due in part to Nersa's big oops.


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