Residential solar PVs face challenges in South Africa — low affordability compromises mass appeal

Adoption of solar PV systems requires a high capital investment which is beyond the reach of many South African households, especially those located in low-income areas

Although most African countries have climatic conditions favourable for solar photovoltaic (PV) adoption, nevertheless they continue to lag behind.

A scoping review, published in peer-reviewed journal Heliyon, has revealed that close to 10 per cent of households in South Africa have adopted solar energy for their day-to-day use.

The adoption of solar PV systems in South Africa needs urgent efforts due to a variety of factors.

The bulk of South Africa’s energy comes from fossil fuels, with about 95.6 per cent from low quality coal. The use of fossil fuels contributes up to 42 per cent of the country’s carbon emissions. Hence, the transition to solar PV is necessary in South Africa for emissions reduction and a sustainable future.

The energy tariffs in South Africa continue to increase beyond the reach of many poor households. Between 2022 and 2023, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) approved about an 18.7 per cent increase of energy tariffs, which negatively affects households, particularly those from low income groups.

Also Read: Royally ignored — Small hydroelectric projects suffer from solar power rise

Above all, South Africa is currently experiencing a shortage in energy supply, thus solar PV adoption could be a solution for them.

Efforts towards solar PV adoption are underway in South Africa, although the pace is generally slow.

The review examines the barriers to household solar PV adoption in South Africa based on literature published between 2000 and 2023.

Five key barrier categories

The study identified five key categories of barriers — financial, personal, technical, societal and institutional — among South African households.

Review results show that 61 per cent of the reviewed articles focused on financial barriers ranging from high start-up costs and non-availability of bank loans to support solar PV adoption. 

Similarly, 61 per cent focused on personal barriers to solar PV adoption including lack of knowledge on how to operate the solar PV systems and dissatisfaction with the solar PV output quality. 

Half of the articles (50 per cent) reported institutional barriers ranging from lack of government and utilities support to lack of grounded policies which can incentivise the adoption of solar PV among households. 

Only four articles (22 per cent) reported technical barriers — the lack of technical expertise to install and operate solar PV systems and non-availability of spares to repair faulty systems. The least number of articles (17 per cent) focused on societal barriers which were mainly related to theft of solar PV systems.

The scoping review results show that adoption of solar PV systems requires a high capital investment which is beyond the reach of many South African households, especially those located in low-income areas. 

Also Read: Overshadowed — Will wind power lose out to solar energy in India

Approximately 55 per cent of South Africans are classified as low-income households and 20 per cent are considered middle income, implying that these two income groups will find it difficult to adopt solar PV if these barriers were not addressed.

Therefore, there is an imminent requirement to address barriers that directly affect low- and medium-income groups for transitioning to solar PV adoption in South Africa. 

The South African government has launched a new rebate scheme for new rooftop PV installations on private homes. Individuals who install new, unused rooftop solar panels from March 1, 2023, will be able to claim rebates equal to 25 per cent of the cost of the panels.

The government also needs to invest in raising awareness among the citizens so that they can effectively weigh the risks and benefits of solar PV and take up sustainable decisions.

Source link

Most Popular

To Top