Unless you were very fortunate, you’re probably aware that South Africa has hit Stage 6 load shedding. Again. If you’re a typical South African, you’re currently looking for options. Emmigration seems popular. So are generators. And then there’s solar power, which offers the ability to stay at your home and continue while the rest of the neighbourhood complains.
But the problem with solar power is that it’s expensive. In the region of nearly two hundred thousand rands for a standard home in South Africa. That’s a tremendous amount of money to slap down to keep the lights on.
Some companies are looking forward to the future. WiSolar is planning on launching a pre-paid solar solution, aimed mostly at folks living in complexes (and with developer buy-in). This is all very well for new constructions or retrofitting developments with money behind them, but individual homes… not so much.
Rent your solar power
An increasing number of South African companies are offering the option to rent solar power installations. The advantage is that you don’t need to finance R200k upfront in order to upgrade. The disadvantage is that you’re not going to be pleased if you miss a payment and the panels disappear. Companies that offer the option also appear to be mostly regional at this point. Still, it’s becoming an option in South Africa.
A company called Metrowatt, based in Johannesburg, offers 5kWh solar installations. R2,800/m covers eleven solar panels, 5kWh inverter, and 5kWh of battery storage. Up the monthly payment to R3,800 and you snag the same inverter, sixteen solar panels, and 10kWh of storage. The unusual thing here is how it’s a standardised package. Still, for about a car payment a month, South Africans (who can afford it, fair enough) are likely to jump at the chance to keep the lights on.
Another local company, Alumo Energy, has a slick setup based on how much you’re currently spending on electricity. Its systems are available as rentals, or as rent-to-own, which would be ideal if you’re looking to sell your home with solar panels installed at some point. Pricing is as low as R1,800/m for rentals, but you can expect to pay at least R10,000 upfront as well.
Rent-to-own solar power is increasingly an option in South Africa. The starting price point seems to be in the region of about R2,500 (via Solar4Life). Others will run you anywhere from R1,850 to R5,000 or so, depending on how much uptime you want and your desired energy usage. Others still are taking the far more sensible approach of offering to give you a quote, because there’s really no one-size-fits-all solution to solar power.
It’s even possible to take your solar power on the road, via the rental of panels and batteries designed to be used by those on the 4×4 trail. In a pinch, renting solar panels and batteries by the week (which at around R4,000/m absolutely works out more expensive than an installation) might also be an option.
But the point is, the options are there. Payment over time definitely works out more expensive than a once-off cash installation that tells Eskom to get stuffed. But with the country’s grid wobbling, it might just be time to take advantage of solar. Even if that means dishing out more cash at the end of the month.