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Municipalities will be required to ‘map’ off-grid electricity users for a national database under new draft rules

Phillip de Wet , Business Insider SA
 Aug 20, 2019, 03:00 PM
Off-grid solar panels
  • Electricity distributors will be required to identify "off-grid own use customers" in their area of supply for inclusion on a national map under new draft rules.
  • That will make municipalities, and in areas where it supplies customers directly, Eskom, responsible for spotting solar panels and reporting them to the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa).
  • Cape Town already has plans in place to use aerial photographs to find unregistered panels within its city limits.
  • For more stories go to the Business Insider SA homepage.

Municipalities, and in some cases Eskom, will be responsible for finding off-grid electricity users so that their locations can be captured in a national database in terms of new draft rules.

In terms of the rules electricity distributors – currently the municipalities that resell electricity to their residents and, where it sells power to end-users directly, Eskom – will have a duty to identify such installations, so that they can be mapped on the geographical information system of the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa).

The requirement applies to "off-grid own use customers" without any further qualifications, which suggests it will cover rooftop solar PV installations as well as other forms of power generation of any size.

There is no penalty associated with the requirement, and no deadline for distributors to comply.

See also: Register your solar panel or face a R6,400 fine, Cape Town warns residents

Nersa has had previous false starts in trying to require registration of home power generation of all sorts.

But the new draft rules, published this week, formally known as the Nersa Rules for Licensable Distribution Areas of Supply, do not place any obligation on private users or homeowners. Instead they seek to regulate how municipalities interact with Eskom and each other, especially in geographic areas where there may be uncertainty about which entity should be responsible for the power lines that run to homes and businesses.

Though the term "customer" is not defined, the rules refer to "current and prospective customers and end-users", implying that those who have never bought electricity from a distributor will still fall under the registration regime.

Last year Cape Town launched a registration regime for  solar PV panel systems in its jurisdiction, and promised to charge residents thousands of rands if they failed to comply.

See also: Cape Town will use aerial photos to spot unregistered solar panels in suburbs

The City of Cape Town said it needs to know where electricity generating systems are to protect staff who could be electrocuted while working on power infrastructure – and to pre-empt national registration requirements it believed to be imminent.

The new Nersa rules are open for comments until 13 September. 

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