In some countries, it is common for solar power system owners to receive credits on their electricity bills when they transmit electricity from their solar systems back to the grid. Utility companies that allow net metering help these solar owners save money on their bills by giving such credits, while also benefiting for more electricity production and a reduced need for transmission and infrastructure expansion.
South Africa currently is considering incentives like net metering for rooftop solar power. (It isn’t only home owners in South Africa that might quality for net metering if such a law is passed, but also business owners.)
Solar power could have a capacity of 22.5 GW by 2030 there, the country estimates. As you might imagine, South Africa has a large solar power potential. Solar radiation is twice as great as Europe, or more, so building out its solar capacity is extremely logical now that solar costs have fallen so low and continue to fall.
South Africa now has over 500 MW of utility-scale solar power capacity, which means it is a top solar nation in that category.
Reportedly, about 1700 MW of solar power capacity is in the pipeline, and if it is developed, then South Africa could become a top 5 nation for utility-scale solar.
So, South Africa has done well in that field, but allowing incentives for rooftop solar power owners would grow solar power in South Africa much more.
It is impressive that solar power has grown like it has in South Africa without such operator incentives. Most of South Africa’s electricity is generated from burning coal. Natural gas and oil are in limited supply and there is some nuclear. Renewables such as solar and wind are set to grow — mainly because they are clean but also because the country will need tens of thousands of megawatts of power in the future.
That there is an interest in solar and wind is impressive considering that South Africa has about 90% of Africa’s coal reserves. Some countries with plenty of coal might assume they could rely on it and not want to invest in new technologies. Of course, the health and global warming benefits of solar are tremendous, and should make everyone switch from coal to solar as soon as practically possible.
Image Credit: J.J Van Zyl