Part of the solution, she suggests, could come from accelerating the rollout of feed-in tariffs, through which homeowners with rooftop solar systems sell the surplus electricity they generate at peak times to the grid.

Several municipalities have introduced feed-in tariffs schemes, which typically require homeowners to pay a monthly fee, though a national-level scheme is still on the drawing board. As well as increasing the supply of power to the grid, a feed-in tariff generates some revenue for municipalities and reduces the attraction of going completely off-grid for wealthy homeowners.

The CSIR Energy Centre therefore developed a Net Feed-in Tariff (NETFIT) concept in which electricity distributors are made financially indifferent to embedded PV, and in which the business case for the PV owner is de-risked at the same time. The concept differs from the also widely known “net metering” approach in the sense that it stimulates embedded PV as part of the overall power generation fleet, regardless of what the specific load at the customer’s site is, and it compensates municipalities financially for the portion of the fixed grid cost of electricity distributors that they
cannot recover from electricity sales anymore due to self-consumed PV electricity.

One thing that is to be admired, however, is the creative use of language through which Cape Town has framed these local regulations. For a start, the scheme is most definitely not a feed-in tariff. Under national regulations, only one organisation is allowed to buy electricity directly from producers in South Africa, and that’s Eskom. Cape Town’s solar producers may receive a rebate or partial refund on electricity supplied to the City, but it’s not the same as a purchase. Oh no.

Dr Tobias Bischof-Niemz says “An approach seems advisable in which small and medium renewables projects get a fixed tariff in form of a standard offer (a feed-in tariff), for which the tariff level is linked to the outcomes of the competitive tender for the large, utility-scale projects,” he says.

A “Net Feed-in Tariff” proposal

  The following is from an email from Or Pearl to Ruth Rabinowitz, member of the South African parliament for … Read more

  The International Solar Energy Society (ISES) has called for the use of feed-in tariffs worldwide at its world congress … Read more