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Sol could ‘buy back’ energy

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“If connections are not regulated, this may expose the municipal employees to danger during times of maintenance of infrastructure”

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THE SOL Plaatje Municipality could soon be paying “greenies” back for electricity put into the municipal grid – but residents will still be liable for a basic municipal cost of almost R350 a month.

It is proposed that the policy for the Small Scale Embedded Generation (SSEG) and Photovoltaic (PV) Installation be implemented with immediate effect.

The policy, which has not yet been adopted by the Sol Plaatje City Council, will regulate installations as well as connections to the municipal grid.

With the tabling of the 2019/20 budget last week, the municipality introduced a tariff structure for excess energy generated by solar installations.

According to the budget, most of all private installations are for residents’ own consumption. “SSEG and PV installation still require connections to the grid to ensure consistency of supply of power,” a report in the budget document stated.

It was pointed out that the infrastructure may not be compatible with the requirements of a bi-directional metering for flow into and flow out of during low demand periods at the site where the SSEG and PV installation has been made. “This may lead to revenue loss to the municipality.”

As a result the municipality pointed out that it would have to monitor the installation and may have to certify the installation for safety and security reasons.

“If connections are not regulated, this may expose the municipal employees to danger during times of maintenance of infrastructure,” the report states.

It was pointed out that where excess energy is generated from SSEG or PV installations, the municipality may negotiate for buy-back of the energy, which may impact on the cost of bulk electricity purchases. “If significant enough, this may impact on tariff in the long run.”

According to the proposed tariff structure, no more electricity may be fed back into the system than what is consumed by the consumer. “Consequently the account holder must be a net consumer of electricity.

Only domestic/residential consumers are liable for the basic charge and this cost is already included in the sale of kVA.

“Any liability for amounts payable to the generator for electricity fed back into the grid by SPM is subject to full compliance with the SSEG Policy and concomitant laws.”

The basic charge per month payable by the generator is R348.75.

Energy charges (R/Kwh) which the municipality will pay to the generator are:

Low demand season (September to May): Peak R0.3504; Standard R0.2412 and Off-peak R0.1530

High demand season (June to August): Peak R1.0739, Standard R0.3542 and Off-peak R0.1767.

By comparison, the domestic tariff for electricity is between R1.9950 (0-350 Kwh) and R2.4565 (>350 Kwh) in summer and R2.1114 (0-350 Kwh) and R2.5478 (>350 Kwh) in winter. Residents who have a property valued at more than R650 000 will also have to pay a basic charge of R126.50 a month.

The Sol Plaatje Municipality’s policy comes at a time when residents are being encouraged to generate their own electricity.

Stellenbosch University said in a statement yesterday that South Africans should be allowed, and in fact encouraged, to generate their own electricity.

The Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at Stellenbosch University, Professor Wikus van Niekerk, pointed out that consumers were overly dependent on obtaining electricity from one source – Eskom – distributed via the national grid by Eskom or local municipalities while other sources of electricity are readily available at an even lower cost than what consumers currently pay.

“The technology and equipment for households to generate their own electricity have developed to such an extent that real alternatives are available … Not only should consumers be encouraged to invest in these technologies, but should also be supported to do so – at least financially – through appropriate tariff structures.”

He pointed out that although many municipalities now did allow consumers to install solar photovoltaic (PV) modules on their premises, and even to feed excess energy back into the grid, the way that most municipalities have structured these so-called “feed-in tariffs” in fact penalised consumers who did so.

“This is the major reason why many consumers install these systems without informing the local authorities, which creates a threat to the safety of electricians who may have to work on the lines.

“In Europe, the USA, and many other countries, the authorities did exactly the opposite by in fact subsidising the installations of the systems through an attractive feed-in tariff. Over the last few years the capital cost of these systems have been significantly reduced to such an extent that a homeowner can now generate electricity for less than what they typically pay their local municipality and they will also be willing to sell their excess electricity to the local municipality at the same, or even a lower rate than what the municipality pays Eskom. “

He added that the investment in solar water heating and other energy efficient devices such as LED lights were a good start to reduce the amount of energy used in residential areas, but consumers should now be empowered to install photovoltaic panels on houses’ roofs to generate electricity as well and become prosumers.

“Admittedly, photovoltaic panels, batteries and inverters are not cheap, but it is an investment not beyond the reach of a large section of the residential market,” Van Niekerk stated. “Not only will it reduce the demand on the grid, but it is of course a much cleaner form of electricity.”

By allowing homeowners to install their own PV systems they will reduce the current demand from Eskom, that they cannot meet, and later on free up capacity to be made available for other consumers to grow the economy.

He concluded that while there is a window of opportunity to stimulate the rooftop PV market and reduce the demand on the fragile Eskom generators, it called for vision and co-operation between all sectors of government, the private and public sectors.