A growing push to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and move towards renewable energy sources has led to trillions being invested in enhancing solar power generation capacity globally.
As of 2023, the use of solar energy in residential homes globally remains limited. In Germany, the adoption rate stands at approximately 11%, while in the United Kingdom, it is around 4%. In North America, the USA lags behind with a mere 3% adoption rate and Australia has emerged as a global leader with an adoption rate of 31% – more than double the 2018 rate of 14%.
“South Africa is still a relatively small solar player, with an estimated residential adoption rate of 3.54%,” explains ooba Solar head Dominique dHotman a platform that provides consumers with solar installation quotes for comparison and assists them in securing financing for their solar projects.
“However, we are one of 40 countries around the world with a cumulative photovoltaic capacity of more than one gigawatt, a status enhanced by our naturally sunny climate.”
To better understand the residential solar penetration rate in South Africa, dHotman and the ooba Solar team analysed the estimated market potential of the residential roof top solar installations by major providers against Deeds Office data of residential properties.
While the resulting figures are informed estimates, they provide invaluable insight into size of the residential solar market and which system sizes are most popular among South African homeowners.
When it comes to which region leads the way in solar market potential, it is no surprise that South Africa’s most populous province – Gauteng – comes out on top, with an estimated market share of 45.8%. The Western Cape comes in second with an estimated 24%, followed by KwaZulu-Natal with 12.6%.
“Gauteng residents have experienced some of the worst blackouts in the country, not only as a result of ongoing loadshedding but also due to poor service delivery, resulting in many homeowners having no choice but to go off-grid,” explains dHotman.
As to which provinces are estimated to be the least likely to invest in renewable energy, the North West comprises only 2.5% of the country’s estimated solar market share, followed by Limpopo with a mere 1.9%. The Northern Cape has the smallest projected solar market share in South Africa at 1.4%.
Solar penetration rate across different price bands
When compiling the ooba Solar data to determine market share, dHotman and his team classified the various solar offerings into three distinct categories: small, medium and large. While the product specifications differ across providers, the rough definition is as follows:
- Small: 3kW inverter, 5kWh battery, 2.7kWP (6 panels)
- Medium: 5kW inverter, 5kWh battery, 3.6kWP (8 panels)
- Large: 8kW inverter, 10kWh battery, 6.3kWP (10 panels)
“The data indicates that ‘medium’ systems are by far the most popular, comprising over 50% of installed solar systems in the country,” says dHotman.
Small systems make-up 35%, with large systems at 14.3%.
“With the average medium system priced at just over R200 000, it’s clear that South Africans are willing to spend more to ensure increased solar resilience,” he adds.
The ooba Solar data gives additional insight into solar preferences across Full and Sectional Title homeowners, with the data indicating that those with freestanding homes are more likely to invest in solar.
“An estimated 68.7% of all residential solar systems in South Africa are located in full title homes – a staggering majority that may be the result of Body Corporate rules around upgrades and additions to sectional title properties,” explains dHotman.
“Here too, medium-sized solar systems are the most popular among both property types, comprising 50% of total solar systems for both sectional and full title homes.”
Much of the population remains unserved
While residential solar installation rates have increased at an exponential rate since 2021, ooba Solar research shows that an estimated 45% of the country’s households would remain unserved by roof top solar solutions because the cost of these systems would remain out of reach, even with the latest finance options.
“This points to need for other energy sources like gas being more accessible and the need for further innovation in the solar solutions available to this part of the market and to the need for additional financial products to be brought to the market to serve these households. This means that there is not currently a solar offering available on the market, be it in size or price point, to meet this segment’s needs,” says dHotman.
“As a company focused on breaking down solar barriers by easing access to both solar installation and financing, we are working to increase offerings that will meet the needs of this unserved segment and accelerate the large-scale shift to renewable energy adoption,” he concludes.