September 19, 2017

The other value of solar is data

The amount of energy generated by solar power is expected to increase six-fold by 2030, and the International Renewable Energy Association (IRENA) predicts that with the lower costs, solar will become a formidable force by 2025. But as renewable energy plants are increasing exponentially, solar energy adoption in South Africa still has a long way to go, says Johan Pienaar, Commercial Director, SolarAfrica.

While there is work to be done in the policy space, South Africa has a very well established industry of solar providers; from architects to solar installation experts and OEMs that offer world-class products and services. There is no doubt that technology is leading the charge on the accessibility of renewable energy.

Currently, there are three pillars to facilitating renewable energy adoption in South Africa: Financial accessibility, policy enablement and, technology. While the policy debate continues and NERSA work to balance its commitment to protect the interests of the power generator as well as those of consumers, embedded generation is the only route through for consumers wishing to gain control of their energy requirements.

It is widely understood that embedded generation solutions such as solar offer customers excellent savings on their energy.

The real value though can be seen in the technology supporting these solutions. Many people think of a solar system as solar panels, whereas it should rather be seen as units of energy, or kWh. The solar panel is simply the technology that delivers that energy to the customer. We need to break through the tech barrier and get to the kWh. When we shift our mindset to appreciate that the kWh is the product, then our perspective on solar energy solutions change.

Besides the potential savings, the value that technology offers those consumers with embedded generation solutions is the capability to have better visibility on their energy usage. This is no longer a reactive insight gained from tracking how much diesel your generator used last month – but, a more evolved software solution that allows customers to monitor their energy usage in real-time through integrated data insights.

Monitoring solutions that integrate various consumption data offer customers the chance to proactively manage their energy usage as well as help them remain within the requirements for embedded generation – that is, to produce energy sufficient only for your own consumption.

The reality is we live in a data-rich world. Technological innovations highlight just how much can be gained when we shape solutions to overcome the associated barriers to accommodate technology. In this case, technology is not just about the solar panels; it can improve our lifestyles through the information it provides us with and thereby, the informed decisions we now have the power to make.

Consumers want to make decisions about their energy usage; managing how much they use each month, prioritising usage – either for financial or environmental reasons – and, perhaps lifestyle reasons.

Unfortunately, despite the advances made in the technology space, policy issues remain a hot topic right now. Where it will end up remains the cause for much debate, but while that discussion continues, consumers still have the choice to employ embedded generation in their homes and benefit from significant savings and data insights straight away.

While the US and Europe may be streaks ahead regarding legislation and policy enablement, when it comes to the key decisions regarding whether to adopt solar or not, South African energy service providers offer solar solutions that meet all the needs of the commercial, industrial and residential consumers, which includes taking care of the operational requirements associated with solar technology. As for the financing, that is just around the corner too.

So when we ask ourselves whether we should wait another year and look at how the solar market is going to evolve, then we need to consider the savings we could be making and the valuable data we can be gathering now to start optimizing our lifestyle and energy usage. A lot can be achieved in a year.

The obstacles around policy and financing will be discussed later this year at the LeaderX conference, 24 August.

 

 

 

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