Back to the topic of electricity / energy, I visited one of the companies selling solar solutions in the Show grounds during the Agricultural and Commercial Show last weekend. I asked the sales man the question of how much it would cost me in total to unplug from the “The Matrix” of ZESCO (Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation) and go solar. A typical setup for a 3 bedroomed house will cost between K30,000 and K50,000 for solar panels, batteries, cabling and installation. This will give you power for 2 days for lighting, refrigerators, TV, irons, game consoles, etc.

For water heating, you need a solar geyser which will set you back about K7,000. Then you need a gas cooker, cylinder and gas which will cost about K3,000 including transportation costs. So for the grand total of a minimum of K40,000 (just over $5,000), you can be free from the grid forever.

I have worked out that it costs about K50 per head per month in electricity bills for an average middle class family. So a family of 6 will spend about K300 per month. Let us assume they spend K500 per month to factor in eventualities like visitors, cold weather, etc.

So to spend K40,000 in electricity bills will take you 80 months or just under 7 years. If you spend K300 per month, it will take over 11 years.

Prices of solar solutions need to drop to less than K20,000 ($2,500) to become viable for middle class families. That is about 3 – 5 years worth of electricity bills from the grid which makes more sense. Lower income families require prices to drop to around K5,000 ($640) for the numbers to make sense.

Another final point to consider is that K20,000 can buy you a second hand Japanese car. So would you rather buy a solar home kit or a car? There is also the cost of gas per month that I did not analyse which makes the case for solar worse.