Pierre Moureau, who has rooftop solar panels, only notices the blackouts that regularly leave South Africans in the dark when complaints appear on his Johannesburg neighborhood’s WhatsApp group.
“I have a particular level of life,” the 68-year-old financial planner, who relaxes in his private sauna, explained. “I want to be able to live my life the way I want.”
As Africa’s most industrialized economy suffers from a deepening power crisis, generating public outrage, President Cyril Ramaphosa has vowed to eliminate red tape in order to increase the use of renewable energy in coal-dependent South Africa.
But many South Africans are not waiting for government action and their impatience has driven a boom in small-scale solar installations.
In the first five months of this year alone, South Africa imported solar PV panels worth nearly 2.2 billion rand ($135 million), a Reuters analysis of customs data found. That amounts to over 500 megawatts of peak generating capacity, analysts say.
Most systems in a country that requires 4-to-6 gigatonnes of additional output to eliminate widespread power outages, known locally as loadshedding, are not registered and send nothing back into the power-starved grid.
And, for the time being, their exorbitant cost means that they are just a solution for the comparatively wealthy, increasing gaps in what is already one of the world’s most unequal nations.