Friends and family living in Australia or somewhere in Europe often tell stories of how they save money on electricity by selling it back to the power supplier. With South Africa’s energy crisis, why can’t we sell electricity back to Eskom?
Cape Town has started experimenting with independent energy producers selling back into the grid, but it is nowhere near as generous as other countries
How is this done in overseas?
We aren’t going to get bogged down in technicalities, but quite simply it comes down to generous Feed-In-Tariffs.
National energy suppliers are forced to pay households for electricity produced and not used. Effectively buying excess electricity from them.
In 2010 this produced a boom in the use of green energy amongst homeowners in England as they realised that they could not only save money with solar energy, but make money as well.
Why is Eskom not doing this?
Unfortunately we have to get a bit technical here. South African society is very different to that of Australia and Europe and we have unique challenges to overcome.
High end users are subsidising poorer users. They are also the ones that will be able to afford more advanced solar systems and ultimately use much less electricity as they sell it back to Eskom.
This will have the unfortunate result that the poorer households will have to pay more for their power and result in a situation where the poor households among us will have to subsidise the rich.
Eskom can’t afford high end users to go off the grid. The reason for this is quite obvious. The less electricity they sell, the less money they will have to upgrade and repair their ailing infrastructure.
Municipalities need electricity sales to provide the necessary services. They act as the middle-man by buying electricity in bulk and then selling it to residential, business and industrial customers.
This income is then used to perform necessary services. During the 2012-13 financial year electricity sales were 30% of total municipal income. This amounts to R77.2 bn of a total income of R258bn. Most municipalities are dependant on electricity sales.
Cape Town’s Ground Breaking Program
In Cape Town they have instigated a program where anyone can become an independent energy supplier. With all the legal constraints though, Cape Town has had to create their own rules and regulations.Therefore there are still a couple of silly things that makes it difficult for the average person to attempt becoming an independent power supplier.
As an example, you have to be a net user. In other words use more electricity than you sell. Secondly, you have to get a bidirectional meter installed. The municipality will install it, but you still have to buy it. There is also a R13.03 daily fee in order to sell electricity to Eskom.
These requirements might seem rough, but at least it is a step in the right direction.
Can it be done?
As long as it is up to Eskom, probably not. So lets hope that other municipalities follow in the proactive steps as Cape Town and attempt to make it possible for homeowners to sell electricity back to the grid by offering them incentives like Feed-In-Tariffs.
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