Self-generated Electricity 101
Renewable energy now more accessible than ever before1st Apr 2022
Survival of our planet lies in alternatives to conventional energy generation, which relies on coal, petroleum, natural gas and nuclear technology. But when focussing on property developers, what proportion seriously considers solar power and other renewable energy sources as prevailing standard?
With the focus on innovation and sustainability, savvy property moguls now turn to renewable energy options when planning new developments. But how much are they prepared to invest into this quest, and can they rely on support from government?
Paul Lambrechts of BDE Consulting Engineers is an expert on sustainable developments, their appeal for residents, and what it costs to maintain them. He is guided by SANS (South African National Standards) requirements and building regulations.
Regulation XA of SANS 10400 provides for the application of national rules on energy efficiency and environmental sustainability in building design. Amended regulation XA2, for example, states that at least 50% (volume fraction) of annual average hot water heating should be provided by means other than electrical resistance heating, including but not limited to solar, heat pumps, heat recovery from other processes, and renewable combustible fuel.
‘This means all new dwellings, including estates, have to install at least water-heating or photovoltaic panels on their roofs to adhere to the regulation’s requirement,’ explains Lambrechts.
‘It is popular today for developers to further implement mitigation initiatives that lower the combined electricity usage of residentials complexes. The main mitigation method – for economic justification – is to buy electricity in bulk at lower tariffs and to incorporate self-generation, primarily by photovoltaic solar panels.’
Lambrechts says to adhere to the SANS 10400 regulation, developers invest approximately R20,000 per new dwelling. ‘Residential developments with a greener and higher eco focus typical invest R100,000 to R200,000 per dwelling, dependant on the grade of energy independence advertised during marketing of the development.’
The state of support
The Eskom Solar Rebate Programme (SRP) was established to bring discounted quality solar water heating systems to the South African public. The state-owned power utility has, however, terminated the SRP with scant notice or explanation to public or industry.
‘Unfortunately, from government’s side there is currently no formal financial support or rebates to finance renewable energy projects at residential developments. Conversely, The Green Fund is a widely publicised state programme that provides catalytic finance to facilitate investment in green initiatives to support poverty reduction and job creation,’ says Lambrechts.
According to alumo.co.za certain tax policies deal directly with renewable energy. ‘An amendment to the Income Tax Act introduces fantastic incentives for solar power installers. The policy allows for depreciation in the year of commissioning of the full cost of a grid-tied solar system. In short, you can claim back the total cost (100%) of your solar installation.’
The policy dealing with such incentives is set out in section 12B of the Act (#58 of 1962).
Green conscience v cost
Sustainable developments appeal to an ever-growing number of residents, but as is the case with significant investment decisions, installation and maintenance expenses primarily inform buyers’ decisions.
Lambrechts says the continued escalation in prices of electricity and water has most definitely sparked renewed global interest in energy-efficient lifestyles and off-the-grid living.
‘Homes are being built with energy-efficient isolation products and competent technologies installed, comprising solar panels, battery banks, energy-saving lamps, energy-efficient appliances and the like.
‘Except for battery banks, none of these technologies require high maintenance. More good news is that successive improvements in battery technology has resulted in batteries now warranted for 10 years, with a 10-20-year life expectancy.’
AWPower MD Christiaan Hattingh says many people are uncertain about what going off-grid means, and where to start. ‘For most homes and businesses, being grid-connected is much more cost-effective and lower in maintenance than off-grid systems. A solar hybrid setup will decrease your monthly electrical bill while safeguarding against loadshedding.’
Solar installations are becoming increasingly attractive for buyers, although value added to your home depends on several factors: where your property is located, the type of installation, and its impact on electricity bills.
‘A high-quality installation with a long warranty will be more attractive to a buyer than a poorly-specced system with low-quality components. It’s wise to get professional advice to avoid overcapitalising, if increasing the value of your home is a primary consideration,’ Hattingh concludes.