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Repair Your World: Solving the electricity crisis at no tax cost to the treasury

My latest letter to the Cape Times editor.

Melanie Gosling's articles this week and NERSA today (24th February 2010) approving 25% increases (95% over 3 years) refer.

My company has a number of clients who wish to provide their own energy. We don't believe that we can rely on Eskom energy. It isn't sustainable. It isn't clean. Not only is coal polluting the air, mining it is polluting our water resources and destroying our roads. If we weren't in a recession Eskom energy wouldn't be enough for our requirements, so there is no true security of supply, especially as Eskom has not got the increase they wanted. Lastly, in the medium to long term, Eskom's energy is not affordable for our clients and there are already affordable alternatives.

However, most of the clients we consult to are too small to fit into the 1 Megawatt bracket which gets the feed in tariff (REFIT). And the REFIT itself is a farce because the government has implemented a tender system which is the opposite of a REFIT system. The tender system has failed in the UK.

Our solution. We need a "grid connection agreement" where we can install systems which connect to the grid and allow us to feed excess electricity to the grid on a "net metering" basis. This means that if we pay 88 cents per kilowatt hour (kwh), then if we generate excess energy, we get paid 88 cents per kwh. It is unlikely that we will be in credit on an annual basis especially in the early stages of implementation. And this system doesn't require long term power purchase agreements.

However, we understand that the City of Cape Town doesn't want net metering because they believe they will lose electricity revenue. This even though the City has ambitious 10% energy targets by 2020. It has taken Germany 20 years to get to 15%. How are we going to get to 10% by 2020 if we haven't even got a grid connection agreement yet, i.e. we don't have a legal way to connect private electricity supply to the grid? The City of Cape Town says that they don't want "reverse feed" into their grid, but this is a red herring and a way to slow down a process which already works in Germany.

We challenge the City of Cape Town and the Premier of the Western Cape to allow this to happen by the end of April 2010! This is not too short a time considering what Marian Nieuwoudt, the Mayoral Committee Member for the Environment in the City said in the city's Energy and Climate Change Strategy in 2005! All the legislation already exists. If the government continues to allow 25%+ annual electricity increase, its citizens must be allowed to chose from where they get their electricity.


- Note that the one thing I didn't have space to say is that by allowing this to happen, new industry will be created and many thousands of jobs and businesses will be created thus taking people off the streets, providing an impetus to our economy with an industry that is growing 35% annually (and we have a lot of space to catch up) and therefore providing additional revenue to the City and Treasury.
Oscar Lyons said…
As always David, VERY INSPIRING! You are correct in saying that the current system in place i.e Eskom proving us with energy is NOT sustainable!

I believe it will not be too long before we see a snowball effect of people removing themselves from the grid and making use of cleaner, alternative energy.

Good luck with your projects and I'm sure they will be a huge success!

Best wishes

ethnopunk said…
The real crime is that South Africa is still being run the same way it was run in 1652, with the Dutch East India Company. Corporate Capitalism has locked South Africans into a government sponsored embrace in which consumers are treated like cash cows, to be milked each and every day. Who benefits? The same Here 17. Only this time it is not the Van Riebeeck's but the Trevor Manuals and Maria de Quellerie is now Maria Ramos
Just Facts said…
If it is legal to install your own electricity system (solar, wind, etc), and in the fullness of time its cheaper to provide your own electricity, then so what if you can't resupply the grid, now or ever?

South Africa, a developing nation, contributes less than 1% of the world's emissions and should be investing heavily with coal, nuclear and other natural resources to improve its power grid and increase its electricity supply and availability to the people who need basic services at the lowest possible price.

Even if 10% of the estimated 5 million affluent (enough to afford it) portion of the population were to install and return electricity to the grid, the cost to manage such a system would probably offset any real gain as the potential market is so small.

Compared with 90 million people who need electricity now and can't afford your proposal might seem ludicrous. And for most South Africans, interrupted supply of electricity is better than what they currently have - zero supply.

If it weren't for fossil fuels, country's like China and India would never have been able to get where they are today. The average wealth of individuals in those countries has increased substantially over the past 15 years. Making electricity widely available at low cost, coupled with South Africa's bottomless pit of minerals and massive land resources is the catalyst for wealth building now and into the future.

Instead of a few South Africans benefiting by a measly few hundred Rand a year from resupplying the grid and still having no measurable impact on global warming, it seems obvious rather focus on enriching Uranium for additional nuclear power.

While most 1st world countries are too scared to use nuclear power, South Africa can exploit it more than it already does. No one is scared of South Africa using nuclear power because you are too far away to kill anyone with it, except yourselves (which you're obviously skilled at already).

Get real and put your best efforts into the basics. For the majority of the people, global warming and home grown electricity are so far removed from reality: like being able to read this online (let alone in a newspaper).

South Africa needs more electricity and it does not need to try to help reduce global warming. You can chip in later - 20 years from now will be fine thanks.
Take a look at why we have to get real. Some of us want to make a difference. You are right that it might be only 1% of South Africa's total electricity supply in the next few years. But we want to make a start. And the government can enable this very quickly.

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