Solar power slump in South Africa

Demand for rooftop solar installations has plummeted over the past three months due to the extended reprieve from load-shedding South Africans have experienced since early 2024, SABC News reports.

Citing the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA), it said the frequency and intensity of load-shedding and access to finance are the primary drivers behind residents installing rooftop solar systems.

South Africa is currently on an 85-day streak of no load-shedding, which has removed the power cut frequency and intensity factor. As a result, demand for rooftop solar installations has fallen significantly.

SAPVIA notes that most of the demand for alternative solutions over the past 18 months has come primarily from high-income households.

It said demand in the commercial segment hasn’t declined as severely as the residential market segment.

SAPVIA also said heightened demand for solar installations usually coincides with the winter months when demand for power increases.

However, it said this hasn’t been the case in 2024.

“On the residential sector market segment, absolutely, the rate of installations has decreased significantly compared to the same period last year when we were experiencing stage 3 or 4 of load-shedding at this time of year,” SABC News quoted SAPVIA’s De Wet Taljaard as saying.

Taljaard added that most people decide to install solar power systems when they can no longer tolerate load-shedding.

MyBroadband asked SolarAdvice and AWPower for feedback on the demand for solar installations. AWPower declined to comment and SolarAdvice hadn’t answered our questions by publication.

Eskom suspended load-shedding towards the end of March 2024 following a series of short breaks from its rotational power cuts.

Prior to the suspension, rooftop solar generation grew significantly from July 2022 to March 2024.

Rooftop solar power generation as a whole sat at 2,264MW in July 2022, and it had increased to 5,440MW by March this year.

South Africa’s rooftop solar generation growth from July 2022 to March 2024.

This is according to Eskom’s Generation Adequacy reports, which showed slow growth in rooftop solar generation between July and November 2022.

However, things changed in 2023, when power generated from rooftop photovoltaic installations grew from 2,404.50MW to over 5,000MW.

It’s important to note that Eskom’s monthly figures don’t directly represent an increase in installations from month to month.

“If there is a big jump from month to month it is mainly due to the high number of cloudy days during the latter month, not necessarily due to the number of installations in that month,” it says.

“It would very likely have been distributed in the preceding few months.”

Eskom also splits rooftop solar generation figures per province, with Gauteng contributing the most to reducing demand on the national power grid.

It makes up roughly 25% of the country’s total rooftop solar generation.

KwaZulu-Natal businesses and households with rooftop installations contribute the next most, with its generation figures reaching 810.90MW in July 2024.

The Western Cape sits in third with an estimated 642.40MW of solar generation. The figure has grown significantly from 145.50MW in July 2022.

South Africa’s solar tax rebate incentive — launched in March 2023 — likely contributed to the surge in rooftop solar generation in South Africa.

However, households got a relatively raw deal compared to businesses.

Households could claim 25% back on the tax they paid for their new solar panels up to a maximum of R15,000. It didn’t include inverters and batteries.

Businesses, on the other hand, could deduct 50% of their solar panel costs in the first year, 30% in the second, and 20% in the third year on qualifying investments above 1MW of generation.

AWPower’s Christiaan Hattingh previously told MyBroadband that excitement surrounding the incentives boosted solar sales for installers.

However, he added that people soon began to realise that it wasn’t that great, and the incentives didn’t have much impact after that.

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Solar power slump in South Africa