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Solar energy to the rescue for rural residents

The Sefoloshe household in Elandskraal village runs on solar power which its owners self installed. Photo: Katlego Sekwati

Katlego Sekwati

Before installing an on-grid solar system in their Limpopo home pensioner couple Dinah Sefoloshe, 76 and Jacks Sefoloshe, 78, spent a great part of their old age state pensions on pre-paid electricity.

This was money they could hardly afford especially in a time of rising food prices and other basic amenities.

“As a pensioner I don’t have money to spend on electricity. Electricity is now expensive with low units. I would rather use solar and use my pension money for other important things that are required here at home,” says Jacks.

“The solar helps a lot in the house. We use it every day as long as there is enough sunlight, and it is fully charged. I also use it to charge my car battery the whole day and it will still work at night,” says Jacks.

Their village Elandskraal, under the Ephraim Mogale local municipality in Limpopo had a dependency ratio of 62.8% in the last survey conducted in 2016.        

In a bid to cut their electricity costs the couple saved up enough money to purchase a solar power package for which they spent about R2000.

Some of their household items operate solely on solar power but Jacks says they are planning to go completely off the grid once they have saved up enough to upgrade their solar batteries and solar panels. They have been using two solar powered batteries for the past two years.

The solar is permanently installed on the roof of their modest home. Previously the couple spent close to R500 on their monthly electricity bill.

But since installing the solar panels which Jacks says they bought for about R2 000, their electricity bill has gone down by half.

Clean energy forms part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which were adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

Solar power forms an integral part of the project whose major focus area is the provision of sustainable energy solutions with special emphasis on the youth, women and people with disabilities in rural areas and low-income urban communities.

The United Nations Development Programme has developed the De-risking Renewable Energy Investment framework and supports countries to create an enabling environment for large scale clean energy investments.

Jacks says the solar power comes in handy in the event of a power failure or when there’s low energy due to cloudy weather.

The family of four uses the solar power to light up their five rooms, watch TV, boil water and other electricity appliances. They cook on an outdoor wooden fire.

Solar energy has also saved small businessman Lloyd Maphothoma, 25, from a long period of frustration.

He decided to establish a salon business to beat the high unemployment rate in Elandskraal. But his many attempts to get connected to the electricity grid were unsuccessful.

Determined to succeed, Maphothoma did not give up but instead decided to invest in solar energy. He bought a solar power kit which cost R2200 to get started.

This helped him to get his hair salon business to get off the ground and has now been in business for the past seven months. He has expanded his operation into a car wash business which also runs on solar energy. 

“Solar is good for my business,” said Maphothoma.

Solar energy has been recommended in various quarters as a convenient means to reduce operating costs especially for small businesses. It also requires minimal maintenance. But it is not without challenges as articulated by Maphothoma. He said he struggles to operate in the evenings as the batteries aren’t strong enough due to low energy levels. In time he plans to grow his business and upgrade his solar panel kit.

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