Gearing up for winter | Renewable energy

My Money Matters Written by  Monique Vrey

03 November 2017

If the recent bursts of cold fronts are anything to go by, there’s no denying that we’re in for a chilly winter. And while we can’t press a fast forward button to summer, there are ways to ensure that your energy consumption doesn’t cost an arm and a leg this winter – and every day after that. You might ask, how is this even possible? Two words: renewable energy.

Definition: defines renewable energy as energy that is collected from resources, which are naturally replenished on a human timescale, such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat.

To get some clarity on what exactly renewable energy entails and how you should know if this option is something that you should consider, we had a chat with James Hilburn, director at Eco Navitas, one of the prominent companies that aim to help consumers switch to renewable energy. Here are all the facts that you need to know to make an informed decision.

The biggest misconceptions about renewable energy

Before we get to everything that renewable energy is, let’s start off with everything that it’s not. According to Hilburn, a lot of people tend to see renewable energy as something that will cost too much money, leading them to not exploring the option.

“People feel that it’s an expensive exercise, but it’s actually a journey that’s made up of multiple different steps from becoming energy efficient to being totally self-sufficient. How you start that journey is completely up to your unique situation as is how fast you go.”

Once the process is under way, you’ll start seeing the results in the form of a decreased electricity bill within months.

Hilburn added that the general public also tends to have this idea that with renewable energy you’re either completely on the grid or completely off of it. “The truth is that there’s a whole spectrum in-between where you can minimise your reliance on the grid and the cost of it, but still have it there as a back-up.”

How can I benefit from switching to renewable energy?

Whenever we think of starting or exploring the idea of anything, it’s important to make sure that you’re fully capable of making informed decisions. Though you can find a lot of helpful information on Absa’s website, Hilburn listed and explained a few of the pros and cons that go along with renewable energy:


  • Renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, such as LED lights, solar geysers and solar power panels, are long-lasting.
  • Once you start implementing these solutions and you become energy efficient, it saves you a lot of money on your electricity bill – and this saving grows each year as the cost of electricity goes up, making it a better and better investment.
  • It improves your quality of life because you’re in control of your electricity supply. This means that you’re protecting yourself from price hikes and/or load-shedding.
  • It’s a long-term asset that increases the value of your house.
  • You’re playing a part in having a positive impact on the environment.


  • The aesthetics used to be a negative where people didn’t want panels visible on their roof. Lately though we are seeing this becoming more of a positive 'badge of honour'.
  • The upfront capital investment could be quite large. If this is something that’s holding you back from switching to renewable energy, Absa can help.

“Though the pros most definitely outweigh the cons, I'd advise people to do their research before they make purchase decisions. It is important to get proper advice and start with the products that will add the most value to your home.”

How to switch to renewable energy

We’ve established that it’s worth it to at least look at the possibility of using renewable energy in your home. Absa offers many finance deals to make it even more accessible. Now you need to know how to make the switch. According to Hilburn, the switch consists of three steps:

  • Understand the existing energy situation in your home and answer questions, such as: How much energy am I currently using? When do I use the most energy? Where could I be more energy efficient? Good suppliers will do a site assessment to help you answer these questions. Once these questions are answered, you’ll ultimately know how suitable your home is to renewable energy.
  • Start implementing suitable solutions in your home to become more energy efficient. This step is completely dependent on your unique circumstances and something you can do as quickly or slowly as needed.
  • Once you’re energy efficient, you can start looking at ways to generate your own energy and become self-sufficient.

”We always recommend becoming as efficient as possible first. This increases your payback and reduces the capital required to generate your own energy.”

How the cost of renewable energy compare to that of standard energy systems

It’s pretty clear that renewable energy will save you money in the long run. According to Hilburn, on average the typical South African household uses about 1 000 units of electricity a month. This roughly estimates a monthly electricity bill of just under R2 000. If you start using LED lights and a solar geyser, you can potentially cut 40 – 50% of that bill straight away. Want to know the estimate of your monthly electricity usage? Simply use an online calculator.

Does renewable energy sound like something you could use in your life? Then what are you waiting for? Make the switch and stay warm this winter without having to worry about that massive and unpredictable electricity bill at the end of every month.

Disclaimer: The advice contained on this blog is for general purposes only and does not take into account individual circumstances, objectives or financial needs. Accordingly, readers are advised to seek appropriate advice from licensed professionals prior to making any investment, or taking up a financial product or service.