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Summary

· There is no charge for the registration of solar PV systems. A fee will only be applied for failure to register the system

· No solar PV ‘tax’ is in the pipeline

· The registration will tell the City of Cape Town where a system is connected so that staff and contractors are not electrocuted when working on the network

· Draft national legislation indicates that formal registration of SSEG systems will become mandatory

The City would like to clear up some of the confusion that has become apparent in light of the City’s reminder that solar PV systems need to be registered with the municipality.

No charge for registration

It must be stressed that the City does not charge for the registration of solar PV systems. The R6 425,90 service fee will only be applied in cases where residents fail to register their system with the City. Residents should note, however, that there may be costs associated with ensuring that the system is either compliant or off-grid.

Registration no precursor to solar PV ‘tax’

The registration requirement is also not a precursor to taxation directed at those who off-set their municipal electricity consumption using solar power. There are no such plans in the pipeline. The main reason that registration is required is to ensure the safety of our staff and to supply electricity to all customers at certain quality standards. Information on where these systems exist can also be used for electricity demand control, quality of supply management and for planning future investment in electricity infrastructure.

Only 2% of systems confirmed as off-grid

Some residents have queried why registration is necessary even if the system is not ‘grid-tied,’ i.e. connected to the City’s electricity infrastructure. In response, it must be noted that the City has statutory obligations to ensure that all grid-tied systems comply with safety and performance standards. In order to understand whether a system is grid-tied or off-grid, all PV systems must be registered so that the City can confirm if the system is connected to the grid and so that off-grid systems are not mistaken for unauthorised grid-tied systems. Registered systems will be cross-checked with aerial photographs which the City is using to identify the existence of all PV systems.

Furthermore many solar PV systems that claim to be off-grid are not electrically separate from the house’s wiring and are therefore not technically off-grid. To qualify as ‘off-grid,’ a solar PV system must be completely electrically separate from a property’s wiring; for example, a pool pump that is powered by a solar PV system only.

Certain other configurations of PV systems can also qualify as off-grid; for example, if a changeover switch is installed so that the property uses only electricity from the PV system, or only from the City’s grid, but never both at the same time. Of the systems that have registered for authorisation thus far, only about 2% are confirmed as off-grid. The registration process for off-grid systems is a simplified process as the equipment does not need to comply with the City’s standards. (The equipment will still need to comply with national safety standards). At a minimum, a letter will be required which has been signed by a registered electrician verifying that the system is truly off-grid.

Very small systems that would not be mistaken for grid-tied systems, such as solar powered appliances or solar lights, need not register.

Solar Water Heaters (SWHs) that use the sun’s thermal energy to heat water directly are not considered electricity generators and do not need to be registered. Nevertheless, solar PV panels that are directly connected to a hot water geyser element via a change-over switch will need to be registered (as do all solar PV panels irrespective of their use) to confirm that the system is an off-grid PV system and is not mistaken for a grid-tied system.

City pre-empting national legal requirement for registration

It has always been a legal requirement that generation systems connected to the City’s network be authorised by the City prior to being connected. It has taken some time for South Africa to develop national standards to connect PV installations safely. In the absence of national standards, the City has developed interim standards for PV systems to be safely and legally connected to the grid.

Draft national legislation indicates that formal registration of SSEG systems will become mandatory.

‘The City understands the frustration that comes with government red tape. However, the safety of our staff and residents is paramount. As solar PV is now becoming affordable for many more of our residents, and uptake is expected to increase, it is important that we ensure that residents and the industry are aware of what is required in terms of the City’s Electricity by-law, and that existing systems are compliant. Offering a grace period for registration of these systems was the best way to achieve these aims. It is very clear that we are moving towards a system of national registration and it is the City’s intention as far as possible to assist its residents with this transition within the confines of legislation,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Energy and Climate Change, Councillor Phindile Maxiti.

Registration forms

Forms for registration as well as a guide to completing the registration process can be downloaded from www.capetown.gov.za/solarPV. The information required is quite technical, so should residents struggle we would advise that they contact the installer for assistance, as registration of the systems should have been provided as part of the installation service.

Once completed, the forms can be sent to the relevant technician as per contact details at the link referred to above.

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