Suntricity Blog

A series of ideas and themes of interest, relating to
Eliminating Waste, Energy Efficiency, Water Efficiency, Renewable Technologies
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Electricity & Water Increases 2019/2021 in Johannesburg

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In accordance with the CITY OF JOHANNESBURG - DRAFT MEDIUM-TERM BUDGET 2019/20 TO 2021/22 MARCH 2019, Electricity & Water prices will increase by a solid 12.2% (Electricity) and 9.9% (Water & Sanitation) in July 2019.

Furthermore, increases of a similar nature is expected in 2020 and 2021, as recently discussed in Suntricity Blog.

The 13.8% increase approved by NERSA in early March 2019, is therefore within the assumed 15% bulk purchase Municipality guidelines, as detailed in their report.

Coupled with the Water/Sanitation increases of 9.9%, Schools Utility Services Costs (at least in Johannesburg) will increase by at least 22%, to which VAT will, of course, be added.

Inspirational Video

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FirstLook™ as an Online Software Platform is developed on the web application framework known on Ruby on Rails, which was developed by David Heinemeier Hansson.
David made a presentation at Startup School in 2008 and although this is a full 11-years ago, there are many extremely valuable idea he shared.
The presentation is a full 30 minutes long, where the simplicity of though has always inspired me.
Do take time to have a listen. :)

COJ Invoices Electricity & Water - Actual v Estimated

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After 3 months of studying 2019 COJ Municipal Invoices, it is interesting to compare Actual v Estimated invoices issues to school by the Municipality for Electricity & Water.

ELECTRICITY: Of the 129 - 13.95% were ESTIMATED INVOICES
WATER: Of the 162 - 31.48% were ESTIMATED INVOICES
Overall, 23.71% of the Total Invoices issued by the Municipality between Jan and March 2019, were Estimated Invoices.

The predominant Estimate Invoices is that of Water/Sewage (31.48%), where in our experience, is one of the principle causes of Billing errors. Indeed, the article published by Suntricity in September 2018 entitled Common Causes of Incorrect Billing: Extended Estimated Reading Periods, describes precisely the problem Estimated Billing can cause.

The article recommends: Schools must make a date-stamped photograph (at least) at the end of each month, so that in the eventuality of Municipal account problems, schools are able to present "proof to the contrary".

Your school is at risk if you do not record your Municipal Meter Readings at least once a month. It actually takes no more than 5-minutes, therefore, there is no reason for schools not to do this. Suntricity has helped several schools reduce their water consumption by 50%, where readings are taken twice daily at 7am and at 4pm, which are uploaded to our AquaStop™ Online Platform, in order to understand the real consumption patterns of the school.

Suntricity is ready and able to assist your school. Please do not hesitate to call us on 011 534 8695 or schedule a visit by e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The AquaStop™ Effect

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Over the last years, Suntricity has posted several blogs on Water Consumption in Schools in Johannesburg, where extensive monitoring has been carried out, and where we have found as much as 60% of Water Consumption occurs OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL HOURS.

Considering the average cost of water in Johannesburg is now around R61.50 (including Sewage and VAT), (expected to increase by a further 12% in July 2019), Water Efficiency is quite clearly, a priority in Schools.

Suntricity conceived and developed AquaStop™ specifically to eliminate water being wasted Outside School Hours (i.e. when schools are closed), which proved enormously successful during the 12 month test at Northcliff Primary School.

As can be seen from the above chart, further excellent results are also being achieved at Forest Hill Primary Schools, where AquaStop™ has been installed since September 2018, and where almost 1,500 KL of Water has already been saved over the last 6-months.

Water & Sewage cost at Forest Hill Primary was approximately R350,000 in 2018 and we confidently anticipate the annual cost will be nearer R150,000 in 2019, even considering the 20% water tariff increases of July 2019.

AquaStop™ should also be saving your school money. Please do not hesitate to call us on 011 534 8695 or schedule a visit by e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Battery Storage Electricity

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With the evolution of Electric Vehicles, Battery Storage Technology has continued to introduce innovation and reduce costs over the past years, where, from a commercial perspective, has become a justifiable part of the energy mix in the South African context - energy security being the major advantage. Indeed, Battery Storage is now able to compete with "polluting" Emergency Diesel Generators.

In the 21st Century, Battery Storage capacity forms part of a renewable energy strategy, where batteries are charged each day and the energy (kWh) used at night.

Battery Storage is generally guaranteed for 6,000 cycles (15 years), and the capacity purchased in kWh. Systems will start at around 4 kWh, expandable to 50 kWh or even much larger scale is now possible.

With many schools looking to install a Solar PV System, the possibility of including a Battery Storage is a calculation that cannot be ignored. Indeed, with the recent announcement of Electricity tariff increases for 2019 to 2021 of around 30%, Battery Storage will become ever more financially viable and a fundamental part of an energy strategy in schools.

Suntricity recommends a strategy where an initial Solar System is installed of 20KW (Primary Schools) and 40KW (Secondary/High Schools), from which careful monitoring is carried out, in order to determine the need for additional Solar capacity to be added over time, and where data also provides the data to calculate the financial justification for Battery Storage.

Battery Storage presently cost around R15,000 per kWh (depending on the technology), and schools would need a minimum of 10 kWh Storage capacity. The total life-time "battery electricity " provided by a 10 kWh (6,000 cycles) is 60,000 kWh, which at a kWh average cost of say R7,50 (over the 15-years) would provide electricity savings of approximately R450,000 for an initial investment of around R150,000. The cost to 'top up" the batteries (from Solar Electricity) daily, will however need to be add.

Should the recent spate of "load shedding" continue, the decision to implement Battery Storage could, of course, be accelerated.

We are accompanying this Battery Storage theme very carefully and will continue to report.

Electricity Tariff Increases 2019, 2020 and 2021

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An article published by the Engineering News on the 7th March 2019, details the following: "South Africa Energy Regulator has granted Eskom allowable revenue of R206.38-billion for 2019/20, which will translate into a tariff increase of 9.41% from April 1, exclusive of the 4.41% hike sanctioned following an adjudication, in 2018, of three Eskom regulatory clearing account (RCA) applications.

The State-owned utility is allowed to increase tariffs to direct customers by 13.82% on April 1 2019 and further granted increases of 8.1% and 5.22% for 2020/21 and 2021/22 respectively."

Municipal tariff increases are introduced in July of each year. Therefore, by July 2021 this approximately 30% compounded increase will mean the following: 

  • Primary Schools: Present Average Electricity Costs of ±R460,000 will increase by R140,000 to R600,000.
  • Secondary/High Schools: Present Average Electricity Costs of ±R580,000 will increase by R175,000 to R755,000.

These Electricity tariff increases further underline the need for schools to invest in Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy:

  1. Reduce Energy Demand by changing all existing Lighting to LED's - 10% to 15% reduction in Total Electricity Costs.
  2. Implement Solar PV, already financially viable at the present (2019) electricity tariffs - 40% Electricity Consumed During School Hours.
  3. Prepare the Solar PV installation for the introduction of Battery (charged by Solar PV) in 2021.

From the experience working with schools since 2012, Suntricity is able to assist schools in this energy efficiency transition. Please do not hesitate to call us on 011 534 8695 or schedule a visit by e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Solar PV for Schools

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With the recent spate of ESKOM load shedding, the Solar PV industry is again abuzz with excitement, as Schools seek a solutions to mitigate the constant electricity disruption.

In truth, Solar PV electricity has for many years been financially viable, where many schools have already invested or going through the process of “going solar”.

The main reason for Going Solar should not be because of load shedding, more the result of a strategic decision by the School’s Administrators and SGB to reduce long-term electricity costs, together with the equally important environmental CO2 considerations.

Suntricity provides this complete Solar Service to Schools with a selection of qualified Partners (both Technical and Financial), allowing schools to significantly reduce cost over a 25-year period, with no up-front capital investments to the school, which is repaid over a period of time…up to 10-years.

The decision is therefore no longer financial and more strategic. Indeed the choice of which solar installer to choose from is probably the most important decision the Administrators and SGB will need to take, and which must be based on industry criteria.

Suntricity has created the following guidelines, to enable so that an informed decision can be taken to minimise the risks of this long-term investment. We encourage all schools to at least be aware of these important steps.

  1. Track Record and Size of Installer - The companies providing quotations and solar solutions for the school, should be similar size, track record and positive financial balance sheet. We strongly recommend that these companies be a minimum of 5 to 7 years. The investment in Solar is a 25-year investment and the longer the chosen company has been established, the more chance there is that they will be able to accompany the full life of the system. It is easy for companies to make promises but much harder to keep. The relevant track record and company history should be considered a very important criteria.
  2. References - It is important that the SGB visit similar scale installations that the installer has previously carried out. Ideally, visit other schools that already has Solar PV. However, as only a small number of schools have to date installed Solar PV, visit similar size installations (25KW to 50KW) and request references from the Client.
  3. Technology - The technology utilised extensively throughout the world and where most solar production data is available is the Polycrystalline Panels. Whilst there are other credible technologies available and that could indeed be considered, we would prefer to eliminate any risk for this long-term investment and where manufacturers are able to guarantee the 25-years useful life of the Solar Panel. We therefore recommend Polycrystalline Panels.
  4. Quality - Equipment (Solar Panels, inverters and installation) must be what is known as “Tier One”, meaning the best quality from which long-term guarantees can be provided.
  5. Guarantees - The installer must carefully define what is being guarantee, in order for the school to mitigate any risks over the 25-year period.
  6. Price - Although very important as an initial consideration, we are of the opinion that all the criterion defined above, carry greater importance on the final decision by the SGB. This long-term decision cannot be determined by price alone, unless all proposals are understood to be providing the same equally qualitative product and service, installed by equally competent companies.
  7. Finance - There are basically two options to chose from:
    1. Outright Purchase: Where schools have available finance to support the initial system cost, the principle advantage being repayment on investment of between 3 and 5 years. In this event, the long-term maintenance agreement will become crucial. 
    2. Financed by Installer: Installers generally have a financial model which includes up to 100% finance, where the present 12% interest rate is common and the repayment can be up to 10 years. The installer will therefore propose monthly payments where a cost model of electricity generated by the solar system repays the investment over a period of years.
    3. Because of the high interest rate, it would be beneficial (and if possible) for schools to fund an initial 10% and 25% of the initial cost, therefore minimising interest charges.
    4. Some installers offer a rental option, where the cost of electricity generated by the solar system is charged at a kWh tariff and where the school can at a future date, opt to purchase the complete solar system. This option could be interesting for schools where SGB’s have a limited mandate and at any given time, future SGB’s may which to buy the system outright. 

The above outline recommendations are by no means exhaustive and many additional considerations will be further discussed with the individual Solar Installer.

We however sincerely trust that these guidelines is of assistance to schools considering installing a Solar Photovoltaic (PV) System, which we consider one of the best long-term investments possible.

Suntricity is available to assist and accompany schools in the entire process. Please do not hesitate to contact us on 011 534 8695 or schedule a visit by e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we will come see you.

The Benefits of Saving Water

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The following is a very simple calculation that all schools need to understand:

  1. Water cost approximately R61.50 per KL. This figure includes the Municipality's Water Charges, Sewage Charges and VAT are all included in this base cost.
  2. Saving 5KL per day. Studying the schools day-time and night-time water consumption for a minimum of 30-day we are able to determine potential savings.
  3. Cost of 5KL per day. It most schools Suntricity has monitored, saving 5KL a day is not difficult. This implies a cost saving of 5KL x 365 days x R61.50 per KL = R112,237.50 saving.

Truth is, most schools can quite easily achieve this savings through good maintenance, coupled with the installation of Suntricity's exclusively developed AQUASTOP™. In fact, savings of 50% of water consumption has already been achieved on schools where AquaStop™ is presently installed.
For more information call us on 011 534 8695 or schedule a visit by e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we will come see you.