“Pay-As-You-Go” Solar Could Electrify Rural Africa
than 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity; 71 million in Kenya and Tanzania alone. Without any other options, these citizens are forced to either go without power or use kerosene, an expensive and oftentimes dangerous fuel that pollutes the air and creates fire hazards.
But there is a solution that could bring affordable electricity to unserved and underserved populations while growing the local economy: pay-as-you-go solar.
New Mobile and Solar Technology Makes Access to Basic Electricity Possible
In a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) business model, a company essentially rents consumers a solar home system that comes with a battery, a charge controller, a solar panel, LED bulbs and a mobile charger. Basic systems have enough power to charge phones and lights, and larger ones could power small appliances like radios or TVs. Consumers use basic mobile phones – widespread in East Africa – to make payments on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
Through this model, companies can minimize the cost of collections by automating the receipt of payments, while remote rural customers get immediate access to basic electricity without having to take out a loan. A grid expansion project, while it may provide power to bigger appliances, can take years and significant investment to reach a rural or low-income community.
Local Capital Needed to Grow the Clean Energy Economy
PAYG entrepreneurs now service about 500,000 households in Kenya and Tanzania, but they represent only four or five companies, most of which are owned, managed and financed by foreign investors. This is a missed opportunity—both for citizens and for local businesses.
WRI’s new issue brief finds that 52 private sector organizations—which includes foundations, impact funds, venture capital funds and companies—have invested in PAYG companies in East Africa. However, local commercial banks are still not lending to these businesses because of the perceived risk of this new model. As a result, local entrepreneurs can’t access the capital they need to get started. Public finance from development finance institutions (DFIs) like the African Development Bank, Green Climate Fund or KfW could play a key role in growing the PAYG solar industry.
DFIs have long relationships and active lines of credit with banks throughout Kenya and Tanzania, so they can spur commercial banks to make debt capital available in the local currency to entrepreneurs. Their involvement could include providing guarantee schemes or lines of credit to local banks, channeling investments through impact investors, or investing in PAYG companies’ marketing and distribution strategies, among other initiatives.
Installing solar panels is one of the best things you can do to reduce your home’s carbon footprint and help Newton become net zero by 2050. As of April 2022, over 1,200 homeowners in Newton had installed rooftop photovoltaic systems. Solar panels have become popular because panel have dramatically decreased over the past few years and financial incentives have remained high – a combination that makes solar an excellent investment. You can often install a system that will pay for itself in 5-7 years if you have a good site for solar and then get free electricity for the remainder of its 25 year life.
Many homeowners like the idea of generating their own power, contributing clean energy to the electric grid, and reducing their CO2 emissions. The electricity produced can be used to help charge electric cars and power high-efficiency electric heat pumps for home heating and cooling, moving further away from fossil fuels. Solar power avoids 1 lb. of CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions for every kilowatt hour produced so a 5 kW system avoids 5,000 lbs. of CO2 emissions every year.
Read more below for frequently asked questions (FAQs) about installing solar. Read stories about and see photos of several people who have installed solar in our area here and here.
If you have questions, schedule an appointment with one of Newton’s Energy Coaches. The Energy Coaches have a wealth of knowledge about solar energy and can not only answer your questions but can help you evaluate proposals to find the best installer for your home. You can contact them at any point in the process!
As with any major home improvement project, there are many choices when it comes to solar installers and we recommend doing your due diligence and seeking quotes from multiple solar installation companies. You can get a sense of which companies are doing the most residential installations in our area and what their average cost per watt installed is by selecting Middlesex County or searching for your zip code (you can select multiple) on MassCEC’s residential solar cost and performance page. Ask friends and neighbors, search for recommendations in local groups and NextDoor, and check reviews on EnergySage, Google, Yelp, and Houzz.
If you would rather let the solar installers come to you, EnergySage is a marketplace where local, vetted installation companies can bid for your project, allowing you to compare multiple quotes at once.
Be sure to have any installers you are interested in come to your home to survey conditions on the ground (e.g. roof quality, electrical panels, amount of shade on site, etc.) in order to get the most accurate quote. Before you sign a contract, you may want to check out MassCEC’s solar guide, which has a useful checklist of things to consider and a list of terms you should look for in a contract, among other helpful information.
Let us know how it went! Email [email protected] to contribute a story or recommend your installer.
Financial Incentives Lower the Cost
There are a wide range of financial incentives available for installing solar, as well as several financing options. On average, homeowners paying for a solar installation up front can expect to make their investment back within 5-7 years and produce free electricity for 25 years or more.
As of January 2023 the following financial incentives are available:
- Federal tax credit of 30% (as part of the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, this was increased from 26%, and will be in effect through 2032 before decreasing again)
- Massachusetts tax credit of 15% (up to 450,000)
- Net metering (extra solar production gets sold back to the utility company which shows up as credits on your electricity bill)
- Smart program (a 10-year program that credits the homeowner for a certain amount of kWh produced)
If the cost of a residential solar installation is not an option for you, there is an easy solution for Newton residents and businesses. The default electric service in Newton provides 80% New England renewables mix and you can easily raise that to 100% by signing up on Newton Power Choice, the City’s default electricity program. All the electricity you use will then go towards supporting regional renewable electricity production and you need not bear the upfront cost of a solar installation.
How does solar electricity work?
Solar electric systems, also known as solar photovoltaic or solar PV, converts sunlight into electrical energy through an array of solar panels that connect to a building’s electrical system or directly to the electrical grid. The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) has some good background information on this here.
Why is this a good time to go solar?
The cost of electricity is rising and the efficiency of solar panels continues to improve. The time is now for residential solar installations in Massachusetts because we have great financial incentives at both the federal and state levels.
How do I know if my home is good for solar?
You can view your roof on Google Project Sunroof and get a quick evaluation of the available square area of your roof and the approximate number of hours of useable sunlight per year (just enter your address and click on Check My Roof). South-facing roofs with little shade are best, but east- and west-facing roofs can work as long as there is little shade. Ideal roofs have large expanses of open areas but panels can be placed on smaller areas as well. Remember that this is just a rough assessment, and you should request a free site visit from a solar installer to get a more thorough determination of your home’s solar potential and payback periods for your specific roof. Solar panels can be installed on many types of roofs, such as asphalt shingle, raised seam metal, and even slate.
What if I live in a rental property or if I own a property that I rent out to others?
Renters cannot authorize installation of a solar system; only the property owner can. Owners of rental property can authorize installation of a solar system. You should explain your situation to the solar supplier so they can provide the best possible solution. You can also help promote solar in our area by opting up to 100% renewable energy with Newton Power Choice ( click here ) or by signing up for a community solar project (click here), where you can own a share of a regional solar farm and get a reduction in your electricity bill. No need to choose one or the other – you can do both!
What if I live in a condo that I own?
You can download the DOER Solar Guide to Condos which provides in-depth advice about how condo owners can go solar, including how to deal with condo-associations.
If my roof is old should I replace it before installing solar panels?
If your roof is in need of repair or replacement, you should get that done before installation of solar panels. If roof work is needed later, you will have to pay for some or all of the solar panels to be removed, stored, and reinstalled after the roof work is completed. Generally, you will want to install panels on roofs that are less than 10 years old. That way the life of your roof and the solar panels will be aligned. Your installer can help determine if it makes sense to replace it before installing solar panels.
What regular maintenance is required for a solar system?
The future of solar is bright in Georgia, and we are leading the way in making our state a national leader in solar energy. To help meet our customers’ growing electricity needs, we’re committed to using reliable, cost-effective and renewable energy sources that work best in our state.
Business Solar Solutions
To help meet our customers’ growing electricity needs, Georgia Power is committed to using reliable, cost-effective, renewable energy sources that work best in our state.
What solar solution is right for you?
Use our solar adviser tool to explore considerations and estimated costs for a solar panel installation on your home. Get real life figures to help you determine the best solar program for you and your goals.
Two ways to get solar energy
Solar Electric Power
In this approach, electricity is converted directly from solar energy through solar cells known as photovoltaic cells – photo for light and voltaic for energy.
Normally mounted on the roof or in a location with maximum sun exposure, the photovoltaic (PV) array components convert energy from the sun into electric current to power appliances and other household devices.
A PV system requires little maintenance and can produce power for more than 20 years.
Solar Thermal Energy
Heating water using electricity can make up 14-25% of the average home’s utility bill. A residential solar water heating system can be designed to meet between 50 and 80% of a home’s water heating requirements.
A solar water heating system requires collectors to absorb the sun’s energy and a storage system to hold the energy until it is needed. The systems used to store thermal energy are similar to conventional water heaters. The heated water is circulated through the home or building using pumps.
Georgia’s Solar Potential
The potential for solar energy use in Georgia is dependent upon the amount of sun shining on the earth’s surface called solar insolation. Several factors such as weather patterns, humidity and haze can affect local insolation levels.
As can be seen on this solar map, insolation values in Georgia are significant enough to support solar energy systems in our state, with the southern two-thirds of Georgia having solar insolation values equivalent to most of the state of Florida.
Eligible residential TEP customers can buy all of their power from a local TEP solar array for a monthly price that can remain fixed for 10 years. Participants pay an affordable fixed solar energy rate based on their previous 12 months of electric use. Residential customers with 12 consecutive months of TEP service and good payment history are eligible for the program, as long as space is available. Participation requires a signed contract and a one-time 100 processing fee (the fee is subject to state and local taxes). The customer will have the option to split this processing fee into up to four equal installments over consecutive billing periods.
TEP GoSolar Home offers an easy and affordable way to go solar. With the program’s fixed solar rate, participants could save money if costs for traditional energy increase in the future. There are no maintenance costs, and participation helps reduce customers’ carbon footprint while limiting our community’s reliance on fossil-fueled power.
Residential TEP customers can participate in the program if they:
- Have 12 consecutive months of usage history at their address,
- Have a good payment history (defined as not having three or more bills delinquent or service disconnection for nonpayment within a consecutive 12-month period),
- Sign the GoSolar Home contract.
- Pay a one-time 100 processing fee (plus tax) in up to four payments.
TEP GoSolar Home is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Participation is limited by the capacity of Raptor Ridge, a 15 MW solar array developed to serve program participants and capable of generating enough power to serve more than 2,500 participants, depending on usage. If the program reaches capacity, customers will be placed on a waiting list until space becomes available. Customers should allow 30 days for the processing of their application.
Because TEP GoSolar Home is a pricing plan, participating customers cannot also:
- Be on another residential rate or rider, including a time-of-use or demand-based plan.
- Participate in TEP GoSolar Shares.
- Participate in Budget Billing or Lifeline. Customers currently on these programs must exit them to enroll in TEP GoSolar Home.
- Participate in the TEP Residential Solar Program or the Guarantee Home program. Guarantee Home program participants can terminate their participation in that program in order to enroll in GoSolar Home.
- Have existing solar at their residence and be on a solar rate plan.
Customers who don’t qualify for TEP GoSolar Home are encouraged to participate in our other community solar program, TEP GoSolar Shares.
Participants agree to purchase all of their energy from a local TEP solar array for 10 years in exchange for a fixed monthly price based on their previous 12 months of electric usage.
The energy will be generated by Raptor Ridge, a 12.5 MW solar power system located in southeast Tucson that started producing power for our community in June 2022. Customers who signed up early received solar energy from TEP’s other community-scale arrays until Raptor Ridge was completed.
Installation of solar panels on your rooftop is not required.
At first, the fixed GoSolar Home payment should be comparable to the average bills participants were paying before they signed up for the program.
For customers on our Basic pricing plan, the initial program payment might be a bit lower than their average bills. On the other hand, customers who have adapted their usage to take advantage of our time-of-use or demand-based plans might find the initial program payment represents an increase over their average bills. The payment also might represent an increase for customers currently using our discounted TEP Guarantee Home rate.
TEP GoSolar Home is not a discount program. However, the fixed GoSolar Home payment could generate future savings for participants if TEP’s other pricing plan rates increase. These savings could increase over time, as TEP’s rates typically increase at an average rate of about 1 percent per year. Any savings would vary with customers’ usage and the choice of pricing plan used for that comparison.
The fixed monthly payment is based on customers’ most recent annual kilowatt-hour (kWh) usage. That figure is divided by 1,900 kWh – the estimated annual output of one kilowatt (kW) of solar photovoltaic capacity – and the result is multiplied by 19 to produce the fixed payment amount. That payment will remain fixed for 10 years if a participant’s energy usage remains relatively consistent.
Yes. If your annual usage increases or decreases by more than 15%, your fixed energy rate will be adjusted accordingly. Participants’ monthly bills also could change to reflect revised tax rates or assessments, which can affect your total bill.