Selling Home Generated Solar Power – Is it an Option?
In Australia and Europe you can save money on electricity by selling it back to the power supplier. Internationally, generous Feed-In-Tariffs make it attractive for independent producers of electricity to link their surplus to the grid. National energy suppliers are forced to pay households for electricity produced and not used which means that they effectively buy 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. And the trend continues successfully to the benefit of the entire country.
Why can’t we do this here?
In South Africa there is huge uncertainty around Eskom’s ability to generate and supply enough electricity to meet the demand when our economy eventually emerges from the current politically driven doldrums. To further complicate matters, high end users are subsidising poorer users and if they install renewable energy systems like solar power, they will use less electricity from Eskom and local municipal vendors will have to raise electricity tariffs to poorer households to reach their revenue targets. The political implications here are obvious.
Municipalities act as the middle-man by buying electricity in bulk and then selling it to residential, business and industrial customers. This income is reportedly in excess of 30% of total municipal income and most municipalities are financially dependent on electricity sales.
Cape Town has started experimenting with independent energy producers selling back into the grid, but it is nowhere near as generous as other countries. To comply with legal requirements they have had to create rules and regulations making it difficult for the average person to become an independent power supplier.
One of the provisions stipulates that you have to be a net user – you must 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. Despite these requirements, it is a step in the right direction.
Can we do something similar in Ballito?
The official answer is “No” – at least not until there is a sufficient groundswell of demand from consumers to allow this. For now, if you go renewable, you have to have an isolation point like a cut-over switch that clearly separates the municipal grid from your renewable supply. Your surplus renewable energy cannot go back into the grid, ostensibly for safety reasons, and the best you can do at present is to store it in batteries for later use.
With the price of municipal electricity set to increase significantly in 2018, this may yet prove to be an attractive option.
There is a growing trend towards renewable energy here and with future Eskom price hikes a certainty, it would make sense to lobby ward councillors to press for a change of policy that will make it a more attractive proposition.