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Dreaming of life off the grid?

Don’t delay registering your rate of generation…

By Esther De Villiers

, |

Dreaming of life off the grid?

Don’t delay registering your rate of generation…

By Esther De Villiers

, |

3 min read

Recent legal developments are affecting estates and homeowners – who are only allowed to produce a percentage of alternative energy on site in relation to bulk municipal electricity supplied – in many ways, depending on local municipal bylaws. The onus is thus on developers to stay abreast of criteria and duly inform potential buyers.

You’ve got the power

The trend to go green holds many positives when envisaging our planet’s future; currently, countless individuals and industries worldwide are moving towards increased consumption of renewable energy.

Couple this global phenomenon with the fact that South Africa’s mainly coal-fired electrical network is annually becoming more unreliable and costly, and it’s clear that now is the time to take advantage of alternative-energy solutions.

This combination of global green trends and national energy challenges ensures that the establishment of localised power production is not only viable, but also preferable for service providers and consumers alike.

Power preservation and planning

Whether you are set on saving the planet or ensuring uninterrupted power supply, the good news is that the cost of alternative energy sources has decreased over the past two decades, thanks to economies of scale.

It is important for developers to make timeous decisions on incorporating solar power, for instance, when taking into account efficacy and architectural styles.

For example, homes in the Southern Hemisphere require north-facing or flat roofs to efficiently harness sun-generated power, but at the same time solar panels should not conflict with an estate’s design guidelines.

It is essential, too, to incorporate placement and quantity of power-generating equipment envisaged in preliminary homeowners association agreements, so setting perimeters for builders and buyers from the word go.

Of late, another factor regarding the mechanics of green-power generation has emphasised the importance of early planning.

Relatively recent legislation, used by municipalities and metros throughout South Africa, regulates the quantity of electricity that can be generated on plots for houses, or on land earmarked for development.

Information on these area-specific bylaws are generally supplied on municipal websites. But many potential green-energy producers are ignorant of such regulations – especially when it impacts on maximum power generation allowed by their local authority.

Garden Route-based solar expert Philip Roode says: ‘Following a series of recent installations in Plettenberg Bay [governed by Bitou Municipality] and George, I’m concerned that homeowners and developers are mostly unaware of rules now in place. When comparing the respective municipal bylaws in this regard, there are various notable differences.

‘A majority of clients start their planning without taking the maximum-potential principal into account,’ says Roode, adding that this often affects outcomes when building with the vision of living off the grid.

Registering power

‘If you generate any form of power – wind or solar, – while still connected to the grid, you are legally required to register it accordingly. Then the amount of power generated is accounted for depending on your local authority’s specific regulations.’

Municipalities have different restrictions. Bitou, for example, specifies that developments are only allowed to generate 25% of their own power supply.

George Municipality, on the other hand, does not specify particular percentages of maximum onsite generation. The only requirement is that households remain a “net consumer” of municipal supply.

Owners are credited for energy supplied and vice versa, i.e. grid energy consumed is subtracted from the energy supplied. The only criterion is that more electricity has to be used than that which is produced.

Several municipalities are now in the process of visually inspecting properties to record solar installations. Once identified, those premises’ erf numbers are cross-referenced to solar set-ups registered on the municipal system.

‘This registration process is quite new, and it’s imperative to ascertain that power-generation contractors are officially qualified to register these systems,’ advises Gerhard van Huyssteen, developer of Duin en See Eco-estate on Plett’s Solar Beach. ‘South African legislation on this topic is a work in progress.’

Van Huyssteen concludes, however, that most developers believe these bylaws will in the near future be fine-tuned to create a win-win situation for both consumers and suppliers.

Visit eskom.co.za for details on grid access for independent power producers.

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