City of Cape Town trying to reduce backlog in solar PV grid tied applications

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The City of Cape Town is working to dramatically reduce the turnaround time of applications for small-scale embedded generation (SSEG) systems. This is by increasing resources to deal with the applications, switching to an online application system and simplifying the customer experience.

With the big uptake in solar PV and batteries due to load-shedding, there has also been an increase in fly-by-night operators. Many of these systems are not wired correctly or are inferior, contributing to the extended power outages we are seeing when the power comes back on after load-shedding. The City wants to ensure customers aren’t negatively impacted.

  • The City has authorised 5 000 systems to date.
  • In three months (January to April 2023) the City received 2 333 applications. This is almost three times more than the equivalent period in 2022.
  • Using an approved inverter means quicker authorisation for the customer.
  • The City is currently testing a new cheaper single-phase AMI meter. It will bring down the cost for customers feeding excess energy into the grid.

National legislation and regulations require authorisation:

National legislation and regulations require the authorisation of all power generating systems connected to the electricity supply. Authorisation requirements have been around for almost a decade and the City continues to work to refine processes to the benefit of customers.

Fly-by-night operators negatively impacting customers

‘Many customers are given incorrect information from installers claiming they do not need to register their system or use approved equipment. This slows down the approvals process and compromises the safety of the network, staff working on the electricity infrastructure and occupants. Importantly, it can lead to the tripping of electrical connections. We can see this impact already in some areas where there has been a big solar PV and battery storage uptake. Systems that are not correctly wired or are of inferior quality are contributing to the extended outages when the power comes back on after load-shedding,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Energy, Councillor Beverley van Reenen.

Spike in solar applications due to load-shedding

Apart from the load-shedding driven spike in the volume of applications, many applications are incomplete or misrepresent the system configuration. This adds to lengthy processes and delays and is a health and safety hazard for the customer, as well as the teams working on the electricity grid.

Making the application process faster, safer

From October 2023 all SSEG systems will need a City-approved inverter and professional sign off. Currently many systems using non-approved inverters are not wired correctly, posing risks to the safety and integrity of the network. This significantly slows down the registration process because there are too many different wiring configurations for the City professionals to consider. Reducing the wiring configurations speeds up the process.

To note: this applies to solar PV and battery systems connected into wiring of the building. It doesn’t apply to the trolley inverters for example that plug into wall sockets. These are regarded as electrical appliances.

Using an approved inverter means a quicker authorisation: See the list here.

  • The City is working on an online application process.
  • The City is investing in human resources to deal with the increased application volume.

The trend of customers switching to solar PV is likely to increase with ongoing load-shedding.

The City is making the switch easier through the incentives such as the existing feed-in tariff plus an extra 25c per kWh incentive feed-in tariff for excess energy fed into the grid.

Checklist to guide customers through the process:

Author: Bryan Groenendaal


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