Over the last few weeks South Africa has experienced the harsh reality of a national power grid under immense strain. The energy crisis has resulted in rolling blackouts, the worst seen since 2008. According to President Jacob Zuma, "Government has identified energy security as the single most important challenge that must be prioritised and addressed effectively to jump-start our economy." He stated that in the long term, the government was looking to develop a sustainable energy mix that included electricity, liquid fuels, coal, wind, hydro, nuclear, solar and gas. However, consumers have had to consider alternative energy solutions to ensure the smooth, uninterrupted running of day-to-day home and business operations. Many households and enterprises have already installed generators to contend with prolonged electricity cuts.
Although generators are a relatively cost-effective, short-term solution to the energy crisis experienced across the country; the cost of fuel is high, and the negative effects on the environment and climate even higher. As a temporary solution for energy stability a household generator is simple to set-up and easy to operate; however, the smaller generators used to power businesses and homes require a steady supply of petrol and in response only provide a limited supply of energy, due to the size of the fuel tank. With the petrol price currently as high as it is, and the inconvenience of having to ensure the petrol tank is always full, the cost of running and maintaining a generator for anything more than a couple of hours at a time becomes ludicrous. In conclusion, generators are noisy, produce exhaust gasses and require fuel, making them a temporary solution to load-shedding and nothing more. South Africa is lucky in that it is an extremely resource-rich country, where renewable resources are more plentiful and accessible. Although renewable energy sources are more expensive when compared to other non-renewable sources like coal and oil, an increased demand results in wider distribution. With the cost of electricity sky-rocketing to enable Eskom to recover revenue, many are realising that the more expensive the grid electricity gets, the more cost-effective, inexpensive and sustainable alternative energy sources, such as solar power, become.
Solar power is an alternative energy source that in recent years has been viewed more and more as a reliable and cost-effective electricity supply. Utilising solar power and reducing reliance on the grid is not only environmentally friendly, due to reduced use of natural resources and minimal energy wastage, but the South African climate also supports it. The solar panels can be installed almost anywhere with little effort as they are easy to set-up, manage and repair, and are able to store energy for use during power outages. Solar energy has spoken for itself as a durable and dependable resource, and many consumers are utilising solar power in part or full to meet their energy needs. Solar energy consumers feel that the benefits of utilising solar outweigh the cost. A country-wide investment into long-term alternative sources of energy would mean that electricity consumption would be reduced, placing less pressure on the national grid and essentially saving households and businesses the cost and frustration of continuous electricity price increases, fluctuating energy bills and load-shedding. Stay tuned for Part 2 of Alternate Energy Sources