"The solar industry in South Africa, has to prove its sustainability and therefore it has to make sure that it creates new business cases and reach new off-takers to enable it to be less dependent on government programs," says Dick Berlijn, the Managing Director of Pretoria-based solar electricity development firm Subsolar Energy.
Alexi Romano, CEO of the Romano Group agrees: "To be sustainable, the industry needs to become competitive to the extent that it does not have to rely on subsidies. This will be achieved as soon as the cost of solar Photo Voltaic reaches grid parity."
"Over the past two years the Romano Group has installed nearly 1MWp of rooftop solar PV systems in South Africa," he adds. "The largest ones being a 300kWp-project in Cape Town, and two in Johannesburg that account for 150kWp and 100kWp." The 100 and 150 kWp-systems respectively cover an area of some 750 squared metre and 1150 squared metre, of which the latter has a payback time of less than ten years.
South Africa is the third best solar location globally as it has one of the highest and most stable solar radiations in the world. With 2500 hours of sunshine annually - equalling one third of a year or four entire months including nightly hours - the opportunities for this renewable energy source are vast.
According to Edwin Koot, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Solarplaza, South Africa is primed to develop this resource. "The conditions for solar in this country are excellent: there is an abundance of sunshine and space. The economy is growing, the prices of electricity generated from coal and by Eskom are on the rise and there is a growing demand for a greener and sustainable energy production," he says.
The challenge, however, lies in the country’s ability to improve the sustainability of the industry by going beyond subsidised government-managed and monitored programs.
The Solar Energy Debate: Going Beyond Subsidised Programmes