Officials announce enticing plan to incentivize solar panels for local residents: ‘We will buy as much solar power as … – The Cool Down

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The city of Cape Town, South Africa, has announced that it will begin to buy excess power from residential households and businesses with rooftop solar panels.

The announcement — a first for any South African city — is a win for clean energy, but it came about due to desperation, as Bloomberg reported. Blackouts have plagued the country for more than a decade. Last year, Eskom — the state-owned utility company — cut power to households and companies for a record 280 days, up to 12 hours a day, per the Financial Times.

Now, the government of Cape Town is looking for power anywhere it can be found, including from the rooftops of homes and businesses fitted with solar panels.

“We will buy as much solar power as households and businesses can sell to us,” Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis said in a statement quoted by Bloomberg.

Although South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has promised, in advance of this year’s election, that the problem will soon be under control, Hill-Lewis disputed that assertion. “The fact is that load-shedding has gotten considerably worse after every such promise. It should be obvious to all by now that we cannot wait for the same people who created the crisis to fix it. We must do so ourselves,” he said, per Bloomberg.

Regardless of how Cape Town got there, adding more clean energy to the grid is a good thing for South African citizens and the planet — as many South Africans have already realized.

According to one report, rooftop solar capacity in the country increased by 349% between 2022 and 2023, as a large number of citizens sought a source of energy other than the unreliable Eskom.

Much of Eskom’s power still comes from coal plants, the most environmentally destructive and polluting energy source. According to Our World in Data, coal plants account for by far the most deaths from air pollution. 

Eskom surely did not intend to drive people toward clean, renewable energy passively generated on their own rooftops. However, by mismanaging their dirty-energy-producing plants, the utility company seems to have done exactly that.

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