The cost of fully going off-grid

South Africans looking to go 100% off-grid with no backup power from Eskom should be aware that it could come at an unjustifiably high price.

Although some households have installed backup power products to stave off loadshedding, these setups are often grid-tied, which means they still have access to Eskom power when their own systems are insufficient.

Christiaan Hattingh, MD for AWPower, spoke to eNCA News Channel about the true cost of going off-grid. Watch it here:


Video Transcript

SA Electricity crisis: The cost of going fully off grid

Welcome back, you’re watching News link and the country’s electricity problems just won’t go away with more households now looking to achieve independence from the national power grid, but at what cost will this be achieved? Well, let’s discuss this now with managing director at AWPower, Christiaan Hattingh. Thank you very much for your time, this morning Christian. I mean it’s a conversation that is gaining momentum, given what we’ve seen with Eskom and the fact that they’re just unable to meet South Africa’s power needs. One would ust want to get a broad sense of the general cost before we get into the details of the conversation of considering solar within a residential space.

AWPower MD, Christiaan Hattingh
Yeah, good morning. Thanks for having me. It’s a relevant question. We’ve seen with loadshedding back again, that people are forced to to make their own plans. Its at the point now where solar has matured and people are starting to adopt the idea of going solar.

The whole process to get there is something that we help our clients with. It doesn’t mean that you have to start off with a large investment from the from the get go. You can start off with a smaller system and build up modually. I think that’s the key for most people to achieve that load shedding independence, is to not be frightened by this initial massive capital outlay.

So when we are doing a gradually that process that you’ve just mentioned, what does that exactly mean? Can we buy the batteries without the panels? How does that work?

AWPower MD, Christiaan Hattingh
100%. Yeah, in terms of referring to doing it modularly, what I refer to and what I mean by that is that if your immediate needs is to have load shedding security, in other words to have power when there is loadshedding, you can start off with just having your inverter with your batteries. As your budget allows over time, say, for example, in six months or a year’s time, if you’re ready to take the next step, you can then add solar to that. I mean, that’s in terms of a modular way, it enables users to plan effectively with their allowed budget, to get a system that can satisfy the needs. Obviously, if you if you look at as a system, without your panels there’s no return on investment. We do get clients that say that for them, it’s not about savings, they just want to have power on when when its load shedding. To power their WiFi, television, internet, security.

Battery backups like that is very possible, you know, to to get initially and very cost effective, but their is obviously no return on that. So if you had panels, to get the right equipment installed initially is probably the most important thing to make your future plan as you upgrade as easily and as cost effective as possible.

No, absolutely. It’s very interesting that you mentioned those two dynamics and that some people are just looking to get off the grid and make sure that they’ve got power, when we don’t have power from Eskom and that others consider are all the elements that go into creating this alternative power source in their homes. So one big question then would be does then this increase the value of a home? Should a home owner decide to sell their property? I mean, it’s an interesting one, because I think that solar is still fairly new in South Africa and not many people are comfortable with that idea yet, perhaps even lending institutions.

AWPower MD, Christiaan Hattingh
Yeah, absolutely. It’s a relevant topic.
We’ve seen during COVID times now that in terms of also financing these solar options have become more readily available. It’s not, I would not say its in a mature position yet, but in terms of adding value to your home, it definitely does that.

There’s many factors that make solar installation a valuable addition to your property. From a home owners point of view, you’re trying to minimise costs and to keep things simple. Ensuring that you install a quality system by a quality installer gives you that peace of mind. A quality installer ensures tht you know your warranty periods and lifetime of your components, which means it won’t end up being a burden for the homeowner or seller.

At the end of the day, it’s important to not over capitalise. For example, if if you only spend 1000 or 2000 and a month on electricity there is no need to invest in a system that’s going to cost you half a million Rand. It’s there’s no one size fits all solution for these kind of systems. It’s very much based on the client’s needs and their typical daily pattern on how they use energy.

We always say, living with solar is a lifestyle option you have to take. It’s exciting and we see it every day when you instal systems, the moment you install the system, the consumers become aware of what they use and when they use it. That’s already empowering. Coupled with the fact of having a quality system over all the years that you have it, you’ve got your savings, your energy security, and you also not having to worry about maintenance aspects, that increases the value. And that’s the value proposition, I would say.

And then, of course, it’s important to understand that the savings that come with solar powered households are actually quite enormous, you know, you’re not paying exorbitant electricity costs as we currently are with the latest tariff of 9.6%. granted by Nersa for Eskom.

AWPower MD, Christiaan Hattingh
It’s almost as if from from a solar point of view and using electricity. It’s almost the more you use, the more you save. You know, there’s a entry point where which we would say and advise potential clients that, you know, if you’re using R500 a month, you have to consider very carefully, is it really worth it to install solar? If your idea is to go green, and to be self sufficient and self sustain then yes, go for it.

The typical amount of households spend R1000 to R2000 on average, and that’s just going up, as you say. It’s very important to to make sure that whatever you plan on installing fits your budget and is according to your needs.
We are trying to educate people on the term off-grid. What does off-grid mean to you? Does it mean to sever your ties with your municipal electrical supply completely? Or does it mean that you want to reduce your monthly electricity bill to as little as possible?

We know people are frustrated with the electricty situation, but to sever your ties with your municipal electrical supply doesn’t alway make financial sense. You have to take very careful consideration in a system that can handle that. So we always say, you know, talk to your installer, and design a system that is based on your needs and your typical daily pattern.

Absolutely. Thank you very much, Christian for those insights. And I think one big takeaway for me is that you don’t have to do everything at one time. You can purchase the different components of converting or adding solar power to your household at different stages. And that is what I think is quite important for South African homeowners to understand and know as they look for alternative sources of power.

That’s AWPowers Christiaan Hattingh joining us this morning

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