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The case for solar

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South African businesses are already suffering under the financial strain due to the national power utility’s steep annual electricity price hikes. Add to this next year’s proposed carbon tax and it couldn’t be clearer that now is the time for businesses to switch to renewable power sources.

In an attempt to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, South Africa’s National Treasury earlier this year announced plans to impose a carbon tax on the country’s businesses by 2013-14, with the intent of limiting carbon dioxide emissions by industry. While Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan as recently as July still denied that any final decision about the implementation of the carbon tax has been made yet, the proposal calls for a tax of R120 per tonne for carbon dioxide emissions over and above a 60% threshold.

Leaked documents that have been highly publicised in the local media also recently revealed that power parastatal Eskom has plans to further raise electricity tariffs by 14.6%. However, with the introduction of a carbon tax, this increase could become as much as 19%. Analysts fear that this additional economic burden could result in heavy job losses, with an estimated 70 000 people running the risk of losing their jobs.

This is why it is crucial for companies to consider switching over to sustainable and renewable energy, says Trevor de Vries, Managing Director of 3W Power/AEG Power Solutions South Africa. ‚”Currently, between 80 percent and 90 percent of our electricity comes from fossil fuels. In addition to the fact that fossil fuels are a finite resource, they are a major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions. It seems counter-intuitive to focus on our carbon footprints in terms of our cars, and how much air travel we engage in, but continue to use electricity that emits tonnes of carbon emissions.‚”

He explains that not only can businesses decrease their electricity bills and thereby increase their bottom lines, they can actually further profit from their own power producing capacity by selling back some of their power to the grid. So their premises literally become mini power plants that feed electricity back to Eskom.

‚”Our continued dependence on fossil fuels coupled with the pressing global issue of climate change has pushed the concept of renewable energy sources to the top of the agenda. Sunlight is not only the most plentiful energy resource on earth, it is also one of the most versatile, converting readily to electricity, fuel and heat. The economic benefits of using solar energy instead of traditional energy sources are outweighed only by its environmental benefits. The estimates are that a 3 kilowatt solar system can replace around 2.5 tonnes of greenhouse gases, possibly more. Can you afford to ignore that?‚” de Vries concludes.

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