Amanda Watson
News Editor
2 minute read
21 Oct 2017
5:00 am

Government wants to force people who generate electricity through solar to pay up

Amanda Watson

The draft legislation is in limbo as there has been no movement on it since January, when the window for public comments closed.

Picture: Supplied

The department of energy is preparing legislation to force residents who live off the grid and generate electricity for their own use, or have a standby generator for blackouts, to register with the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa).

The draft Licensing Exemption and Registration Notice proposed in terms of the Electricity Regulation Act also requires owners of electricity-generating devices to pay a fee to register.

Households generating electricity by any means, including solar panels, that allows them to go off the grid would also be required to pay a standby fee, according to the Act.

Nersa was approached several times for comment, but failed to explain why even owners of standby generators had to register.

Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) director for energy Ted Blom said yesterday: “The standby fee is understandable for those who use renewable energy because when the weather plays up, for instance if there is no wind or cloud cover, they would require standby power from time to time unless they had batteries.”

But he considered the requirement that a member of the public, who is connected to the grid, to register a standby generator used during outages to be a weakness in the proposed legislation.

The idea of paying Eskom because it was generating an excess of electricity, which was not being made available for industrialisation, to supplement a failed electricity supply was problematic, Blom said.

“This government is so bankrupt, it will grab everything.

“The other side of the argument is that if we’re using less electricity, Eskom should be happy we’re making other plans.

“However, that would have been the argument three years ago, when we had load shedding.

“We don’t have it any more, we have a huge surplus instead and now Eskom is crying.”

In September, representatives from the energy department, Eskom and Nersa had to explain to the parliamentary portfolio committee on energy why, despite Eskom’s apparent surplus, outages were still happening around the country.

The Parliamentary Monitoring Group stated that Nersa claimed one reason was that municipalities were not using the required 5-8% of the tariff for maintaining infrastructure.

The department of energy told the committee the Electricity Regulation Act was being amended to allow the increasing numbers of “small-scale embedded generators (SSEGs)” to be registered with Nersa so that they could be “managed”.

Nersa CEO Christopher Forlee said municipalities “had to change their business models to decrease their reliance on electricity revenue, because it would be impacted by the SSEGs”.

Eskom group distribution executive Mongezi Ntsokolo told the committee the SSEGs would be managed when Eskom knew what sizes they were and owners would need to pay for standby services from the utility.

However, the draft legislation is in limbo as there has been no movement on it since January, when the window for public comments closed.

Regulations to guide the proposed clampdown on SSEGs and stipulate the required fees were also not yet available. – amandaw@citizen.co.za