It is becoming conventional wisdom in South Africa that the pace of solar power installation in homes has saved the electricity grid from collapse. But there is a counter argument: that the demand curve has been so distorted by solar power it has created costly new challenges.

The conundrum is explained by a phenomenon called the “duck curve”. First identified in California, it is a graph that illustrates the impact of solar power generation on electricity load. Solar power peaks around noon, due to abundant sunlight, leading to a massive drop in demand for grid electricity. This dip in the demand curve forms the “belly” of the duck. When the sun sets and solar power generation vanishes, there is a sudden increase in demand for grid electricity. This rise in the curve forms the “neck” of the duck. That, in turn, means utilities need to ramp up other sources of power — quickly...

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