The City of Cape Town is working to cut down the costs of metering for households that want to feed in excess power to the grid, according to Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis.
The mayor was speaking at the Western Cape government’s weekly Digicon. The virtual briefing is a means for Premier Alan Winde to keep provincial residents updated on steps being taken to address energy challenges amid the national state of disaster.
Hill-Lewis provided a brief overview of the measures the city is taking to shield residents from at least two stages of load shedding. Among these is the procurement of renewable energy, as well as implementing incentives to get households and businesses to install rooftop solar PV.
The city recently announced it would pay businesses and households cash for feeding their excess power to the grid.
The previous policy only allowed these customers to have their electricity bills credited, and they were still required to be net consumers of power. But now the city will pay its customers a feed-in tariff.
The National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa) approved a feed-in tariff of 78.98c/kWh for the city. And the city, in turn, added a 25c/kWh incentive to that.
Apart from load shedding driving more households and businesses to seek energy solutions, the city also wants to “tip the scale” and make it easier for them to invest in solar PV, Hill-Lewis said.
But there is one more hurdle the city wants to clear for households and that’s the cost of the meters that would support the feed-in of electricity.
Authorised customers need to install specialised advanced metering infrastructure (a bi-directional meter), councilor Beverley van Reenen, mayoral committee member for energy, explained via email.
The cost of the meter is roughly R13 000. This is an addition to the cost of a solar PV system with a battery and inverter – which is north of R80 000. Installers must apply to the city to authorise the system for grid connection,
Van Reenen said. There is a meter-reading fee of R96.20 (for the 2022/23 financial year) which is inclusive of VAT. The fee is for customers with the small-scale embedded generation or rooftop solar PV who have the specialised meter installed.
It covers the costs for the infrastructure used to remotely read the meter and upload the data to the billing system (this is similar to sending out a meter reader), Van Reenen said.
The city is working on a “drastic reduction” in the price for the residential feed-in meter, Hill-Lewis said. “…That meter price will come down dramatically … I think by the end of this year we should be in a place to have a much cheaper two-way feed-in meter,” said Hill-Lewis.
Currently, the meter used to feed in power is a three-phase meter, generally used by businesses for their power needs. The idea is to find a meter designed for households, which would be smaller but affordable and just as reliable and safe.
“Safety is a growing concern because of the amount of power fed to the grid from solar installations. That number is growing rapidly,” said Hill-Lewis.
“We have to ensure grid safety and stability. We do have to have good, quality equipment,” he added. It’s not just about getting a cheaper meter – but ensuring it is safe for the grid and for people’s homes.
“It’s important to get a good quality installation from a reputable installer. The meter and equipment that you use must be proper, good stuff.” Asked about whether the city wants to take over Eskom supply areas in its efforts to reduce load shedding for residents, Hill-Lewis confirmed that talks are underway with the power utility.
He could not give more details but said that he hoped Eskom’s new management would cooperate with the city as its previous management, under André De Ruyter, had been.
Solar power for schools On the provincial front, the Western Cape government also described some of the initiatives it plans to bolster energy security. One of the programme’s targets rolling out rooftop solar PV systems (with batteries and inverters) at 100 schools in the province.
These are lower quintile or poorer schools. The selection process of the schools that would benefit has not yet been finalised, explained Alwie Lester, special energy advisor to Winde.
The plan is to also introduce energy efficiencies at schools, for example, the use of LED lighting. The provincial government is also looking to learn from what some private schools have done to roll out solar PV systems, this includes understanding the costs and what technology was used.
The provincial government is collaborating with researchers from Stellenbosch University, who have similarly provided a solar PV solution for Cloetesville Primary.
It is also working together with the national department of education. The budget set aside for this is R100 million. Lester said the province aims to raise funding from donors and partners so more schools could benefit.