• South African households are encouraged to install rooftop solar panels as one of the solutions to combat the country’s energy crisis.
  • While President Cyril Ramaphosa wants to see a greater increase in rooftop solar, Europe’s own electricity crisis has added to a global shortage of the vital resource.
  • Fearing Russia’s cold winter without gas, Europeans are rushing to buy solar panels and batteries.
  • This sudden surge in demand, compounded by pre-existing supply chain issues, has led to longer lead times for solar installations.
  • Global shortages of batteries and polysilicon are likely to remain until 2025, according to producers and researchers.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced a raft of measures to address South Africa’s debilitating energy crisis, including pushing more households to install rooftop solar panels, but its own power problems in Europe has increased the global demand for batteries and polysilicon.

South Africa’s long-term energy crisis has been described as the country’s biggest economic risk. Eskom’s persistent failure to meet the country’s energy needs has led to increasingly severe bursts of load shedding, leaving South Africans “justifiably frustrated and angry,” according to the President. Ramaphosa.

“The crisis we face requires that we take bold, courageous, and decisive action to close the electricity gap,” Ramaphosa said in a public announcement on Monday evening.

“This is a call for all South Africans to be part of the solution, to contribute in any way they can to end South Africa’s energy scarcity.”

Ramaphosa’s 10-point power crisis plan includes scrapping the licensing threshold of 100MW, Eskom buying more electricity from existing independent power producers, importing power from Botswana and Zambia, and doubling the amount of renewable generation. capacity obtained through Bid Window 6.

The President’s plan “is also designed to enable businesses and households to invest in rooftop solar.”

“South Africa has a great abundance of sun that we need to use to generate electricity. There is great potential for households and businesses to install rooftop solar and connect this power to the grid,” said Ramaphosa.

“To encourage greater use of rooftop solar, Eskom will establish rules and a pricing structure – known as a feed-in tariff – for all commercial and residential installations on its network. This means that those who can install solar panels on their homes or businesses can sell the excess power they don’t need to Eskom.”

While Ramaphosa’s latest commitment to solving South Africa’s energy crisis has been welcomed, tough questions about the implementation of this plan remain.

The push for more solar panels on the roof of houses, for example, faces many obstacles, such as various municipal regulations regarding installations and high costs, which exclude most households in South Africa from renewable electricity setups.

Although the prospect of selling excess power may see homeowners rushing to install solar panels, as intended, ongoing and worsening supply chain issues will continue to linger. of South Africans.

“Government policies and increased investment in solar PV projects are expected to increase the country’s installed solar PV capacity in the coming years,” said Tonye Irms, the founder and CEO of WiSolar, a end-to-end solar energy company in South Africa, told Business Insider SA.

“However, we expect to witness supply chain issues as shipping and freight costs continue to rise.”

These supply chain issues cited by Irms are not new and have only been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Similarly, the development of electric vehicle production and the push towards renewable energy sources have seen a surge in demand for battery cells, which have not yet been fully met by producers.

The short supply of these batteries, which also play an important role in storing solar energy absorbed by rooftop panels, is expected to last at least three years, according to a May report by GlobalData on the industry. battery, due to the “lack of mine and refined battery metals, similar to the current chip shortage.”

This shortage was exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent power panic across Europe. Russia is the European Union’s (EU) main supplier of imported oil, gas and coal, accounting for two-fifths of gas supplies. In response to the war and the unification of Ukraine, the EU acted to reduce these imports. Russia, in response to the sanctions, has shut down key gas pipelines to Europe, sparking its own regional energy crisis.

This crisis has seen Europe push for other forms of power, such as coal-fired power stations or the expansion of nuclear power plants. There is also a big drive towards green energy, such as solar and wind. Part of the EU plan is a “Solar Rooftop Initiative, with a phased-in legal obligation to install solar panels on new public and commercial buildings and new residential buildings .”

Frans Timmermans, the Vice-President of the European Commission, during a speech at the Extraordinary Energy Council on the security of energy supply in the EU on Tuesday, noted that Europeans are “buying as many solar panels as they can. “

This surge in demand for batteries in Europe was confirmed by Mark Becker of Cape Town-based M Solar Power, who recently attended Intersolar Europe 2022, a leading exhibition for the solar industry, in Munich.

“There is competition for this resource. I just came back from Germany, and every person and their dog wants to switch to solar and electric cars, because [of] the Russians [cutting gas supplies] and countries are very worried that if they turn off their gas, how [are] they drive or warm up [offices and households]Becker told Business Insider.

“We’re not the only people after this resource. The lead times for [battery] Savings are higher than what they were last year due to supply constraints and competition in other markets. So, those are the concerns. “

Solar-powered systems can feed electricity into the grid through an inverter, which does not require a battery, but storage can be critical when wanting to power homes outside of daylight hours, when the national supply comes under the most stress at times of peak demand. Without an adequate energy storage system, the South African grid cannot fully benefit from rooftop solar panels at times when they are needed.

And batteries aren’t the only thing driving lead times for solar panel installations. There is also a shortage of polysilicon, a form of silicon used to make solar modules. At least one major polysilicon maker expects the shortage to last another five years, according to PV magazine.

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