Regular blackouts mean more South Africans are buying Crosby Menzies’ solar products such as his portable parabolic cooker which looks like a TV satellite dish and works like a magnifying glass in reverse.
Menzies started a solar energy company in his Johannesburg backyard 10 years ago when, he told VoiceOfAmerica, a power generation crisis in South Africa was unimaginable.
These days, electricity blackouts are common as South Africa’s power monopoly, Eskom, deals with the consequences of failing to maintain important infrastructure for the past 20 years, according to VOA. South Africa is heading into winter and demand is spiking for alternative energy sources.
Menzies claims his solar oven can cook an average meal in 20 minutes and reduce cooking energy needs by 80 percent.
His company, SunFire Solutions, also sells a miniature array of photovoltaic solar panels that charge a small battery when left in the sun. His solar lantern-phone charger combination can charge tablets and smart phones.
Harnessing the sun’s power makes sense in a sun-blessed country, Menzies told VOA. He estimates Eskom electricity bills have gone up 350 percent. “We’ve gone from the cheapest energy in the world in 2008 to now having one of the most expensive,” he told VOA.
Eskom generates almost all the electricity in South Africa, and nearly half that produced in the whole sub-Saharan region. The utility is the largest producer of electricity in Africa, among the top seven in the world for generation capacity and among the top nine in sales. It operates the only nuclear power plant in Africa.
So what’s Eskom‘s problem? Its problems are financial and operational, an energy sector analyst told IndependentOnline. There is no quick fix for the rolling blackouts, Eskom’s financial issues and its maintenance backlog, so South Africans will have to learn to live with it, said Chris Yelland.
Menzies predicts the market will provide. As South Africa’s electricity problems worsen, residents will invest in solar energy, and solar will become cheaper, he told VOA.