Solar credit comes to SA

2010-02-19 23:29

Cape Town - South Africans who find Eskom's proposed tariff hikes unbearable have at least one other option - solar power.

Unfortunately the technology is often expensive, but a company has recently promoted the novel idea of payment terms for solar hot water systems.

"Our approach is new," Safrelec's Alan Liebenberg told News24. "What we're saying that Eskom's is trouble and it's forcing people to look at greener alternatives. The questions is: 'Can Eskom provide and if they can, at what cost?""

The company acknowledged that the cost of solar powers systems is steep.

"Yes, this stuff is expensive, but you always get what you pay for. A lot of money goes into producing this and it has a minimum life expectancy of 20 years, and after that, it won't lose more than 20% of efficiency per year," Liebenberg said.

Payment plan

Solar energy seems to be viable in SA because the country gets a great deal of sunshine. However, the power crisis with rolling blackouts has made people acutely aware of their dependence on Eskom.

"About 30% to 50% of your electricity bill is for water heating alone, so we suggest going solar for your geyser. The cost for such a system is between R13 000 and R17 000, depending on the system, and cook with gas," said Liebenberg.

He admitted that for many households the system was cost prohibitive, but added that with the company's payment plan and the government rebate, it more affordable than in the past.

"You need to look at it in its entirety. Most people have high electrical accounts of about R900 per month. But that's the price now. When the price increases, it could easily get to R2 500 per month after three years.

"With a payment plan, you get the rebate in cash up front and make the payments for you solar power, and eventually the system pays for itself," he added.

He warned though, that the public should be aware of unscrupulous operators.

"Cheap, low quality imports nearly killed the Australian solar power industry. All it takes is for one person to get burned and because of the price people will rather stay with Eskom," he said.


Liebenberg said that the industry had a long way to go in SA, but that with mass production, the price would come down. He commended the government's plans for low-cost housing but said he hoped for more encouragement for alternative energy.

"Solar energy is absolutely sustainable. We have two projects that run off the grid. Our Love & Motar programme has a house in Linden that's completely off the grid. It runs on solar power, but much bigger than the water heating systems I mentioned," Liebenberg added.

He said that two years ago, a solar water heating system for a family, or 200 litres cost R32 000, but that today it was R25 000, with a rebate of R7 000.

Read more on:    solar power

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