The City of Cape Town is being too “heavy handed” with threats of steep fines and supply disconnections to get people to register their solar panels before February next year, says Janine Myburgh, president of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry (“City gets tougher on solar power”, Bulletin July 20).
“It’s time the City learnt that incentives work better than fines. It should be carrots first and the stick only if the incentives don’t work,” she says. “There’s no reason for the City’s heavy-handed approach and threat of huge fines and supply disconnection. It’s over the top.”
Suspicion and mistrust are obstacles to the city’s request that consumers have their solar panels registered and authorised before February 2019.
Philip Bam, chairman of the Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance, asks if the city is serious about encouraging saving of electricity. He said this should have been approved in terms of building regulations when people attached photovoltaic (PV) panels to roofs.
David Lipschitz, blogger of My Power Station in Milnerton said registration is “enclosure” forcing people to register private assets that in most cases have no effect on the grid. And the fine is excessive.
Leigh de Decker of Constantia and Bright House Solar said what the City is now insisting on has been legislation since 2010 and has been knowingly, or in some cases unwittingly ignored by both homeowners and PV installers. The city is at the forefront internationally and is now playing catch-up. This is not a revenue generating exercise or a tax in any form,” said Dr De Decker.
Sandra Dickson, founder of Stop COCT, says the City is “milking” residents with all sorts of levies and penalty fines. “When the City made less money because people were saving more water, they introduced a water pipe levy. When the electricity income dropped, they came up with a fixed electricity surcharge of about R150,” she says.
Xanthea Limberg, mayco member for water and energy says registration of small-scale embedded generation (SSEG) systems, such as rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) is internationally required and implemented in the interest of grid stability and safety for municipal workers.
Installations must be registered before Thursday February 28 or face a fine of R6425.90 service fee for the removal of unauthorised connections or disconnection from the main electricity supply.
Mr Lipschitz says the registration process must be done by a professional engineer and costs R5000, and it costs about R10,000 for a new meter to be installed. This is not the case in other countries such as Germany and America where people can qualify as solar installers and can sign off systems.
Ms Myburgh said they can understand why the City’s electricity department needs to know about rooftop solar panels that are tied to the grid but people who invest in solar tend to be informed and responsible citizens and they should be treated as such.
Justin and Leanne Hewitt of Mowbray have registered. “Not without effort. We got ammeters, lots of them, and tested every circuit in our home for over a month to work out our usage to the kilowatt hour. Then decided on a system that would meet our budget and cover our usage,” said IT specialist Mr Hewitt.
With Eskom’s recent load shedding, due to a lack of maintenance, coal and funding to service a rapidly rising debt burden, the message from the Eskom interim annual report signalled that the worst is still to come.
The Hewitt’s had the foresight to go off the grid and produce their own energy but their gripe is that the current models for solar homes do not provide for any positive return on our investment. “We can generate over 10kwh per day. Not a lot but there are many of us,” he said.
Dr de Decker, who went off the grid in 2014, believes that incorrectly installed PV system causes the death of or injury to a City worker who is unaware that their non-registered system with non-compliant equipment feeds live power back to the grid whilst they are working on it, they will be fully liable. Dr De Decker said this registration requirement applies to both grid-tied and off-grid solar PV systems but does not apply to solar water heaters.
BLOB Eskom has applied for a substantial increase in tariffs to recover a shortfall in sales projections. The proposed increase is 15% for direct Eskom customers and 17% to 20% for municipal customers. This increase will be per year to 2022.
To start the registration process, visit www.capetown.gov.za/solarpv