Only the big need apply

Electricity users in South Africa who are hoping to offset their electricity bills by installing a few photovoltaic (PV) panels on their roofs and selling electricity to Eskom are in for a long wait.

Not only does the latest set of renewable energy feed-in tariffs (Refits) set a minimum contribution of 1MW, but the infrastructure connecting individual households to the electricity distribution grid has not been designed to conduct or meter electricity flowing in more than one direction.

For ordinary consumers the most logical way to generate their own electricity would be to include the installation of PV panels, allowing them to use the sun’s power to generate electricity to power homes.

One of the problems facing consumers is that the majority of electricity generated by these systems happens at a time — during the day — when electricity consumption is at its lowest point.

To properly harness this power generation, consumers would need a storage device. This would require the installation of expensive battery-based storage facilities or the ability to sell that power to the national grid.


The power could then be bought back from Eskom during times when the PV panels are not generating sufficient electricity.

Cornelis van der Waal, programme manager for energy and power systems at Frost and Sullivan, says that in countries such as Germany and Spain systems are in place to allow individual consumers to contribute back to the grid.

He said that even though it would be difficult under the current regulations for individuals to sell power back to the grid, there are still opportunities for communities to leverage their combined purchasing power to find ways to integrate renewable energy on a local level.

‘Although legally you cannot transmit electricity across roads, it is possible for communities to band together and install some electricity generation capacity that can be shared by community members,” he says.

Van der Waal points out that another stumbling block in the path of the integration of renewable energy into the national electricity system is that Eskom has still to sign a single power purchasing agreement for the supply of renewable energy into the national grid.

‘There also remains some uncertainty about how much electricity Eskom will be required to purchase from independent power producers,” he says.

The smallest level of power production permitted at resent by the Refit is a PV system generating 1MW of electricity. This is beyond the reach of normal consumers.

National Energy Regulator of South Africa spokesperson Charles Hlebela says that the regulator has decided on a minimum of 1MW to participate in the Refit programme for the moment and that the minimum term that a potential power producer must commit to is 15 years.

Van der Waal says the reason potential electricity producers have to commit is to ensure the stability of the national grid.

He says the tariffs that have been stipulated by Nersa for the introduction of renewable energy will have to be funded by the regular tariffs that consumers of electricity pay.

The tariffs range from R0.96 /kWh for biogas systems to R3.94/kWh for large-scale grid-connected PV systems generating more than 1MW. This is in contrast to the R0.33/kWh that Eskom charges.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

SAA to receive R10.5-billion government bailout after all

Several struggling state-owned entities received extra funds after the medium term budget policy speech

Former state security minister Bongo back in court

Bongo and his co-accused will appear in the Nelspruit magistrate’s court in Mpumalanga over charges of fraud, corruption and theft

Gas: South Africa’s next ‘battleground’

As government pushes for a huge increase in electricity generation from gas, serious questions are being raised about the logic behind the move

Khaya Sithole: What’s the state’s role in business?

State participation is valid when the market can’t deliver what’s needed, such as roads and rail networks and telecommunications. But banks and airlines are private enterprise concerns

Covid-19 puts Eskom’s integrated resource plan at risk

The economic effects of the pandemic could hamper the government’s initiative to procure new generation capacity

Renewables will light up the darkness

More than 11 800MW of new electricity capacity from independent power producers will come online in 2022, giving Eskom space to do more maintenance on its unreliable infrastructure
Advertising

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Air pollution link in 15% of global Covid-19 deaths

Researchers have found that, because ambient fine particulate air pollution aggravates comorbidities, it could play a factor in coronavirus fatalities

Mboweni plans to freeze public sector wage increases for the...

The mid-term budget policy statement delivered by the finance minister proposes cutting all non-interest spending by R300-billion.

SAA to receive R10.5-billion government bailout after all

Several struggling state-owned entities received extra funds after the medium term budget policy speech

BMW X3 thrives in the M stable

The compact SUV is so at home with its new badge that’s it’s surprising it didn’t happen sooner
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday