South African farmers blocked from helping to solve load-shedding

South African farmers blocked from helping to solve load-shedding

Many South African farmers want to generate enough green electricity to cover their own use and sell the rest to Eskom and municipalities, but they are blocked from doing it.

This is according to Agri SA corporate member Sonfin, which specializes in structuring green power solutions on its customers’ behalf.

The National Energy Regulator (Nersa) recently implemented a process for registration to allow farmers to legally generate their own power.

Once their registration has been approved, a farmer can generate their own electricity and “bank” power on the grid for offsetting against future usage.

This is a positive development which helps farmers to alleviate the impact of high electricity prices and load-shedding.

However, it still does not allow farmers to generate enough electricity to cover their own use and offset the fixed costs and line fees payable to Eskom.

Sonfin told MyBroadband that all its customers – it has 120 applications with Eskom – want a “zero Eskom account”.

This will not only assist the farmers to cut costs, but also help Eskom to meet demand and potentially prevent load-shedding.

Prohibitive Eskom rules

Sonfin told MyBroadband that the Electricity Regulations Act and the Eskom and municipal policies prohibit anybody from selling power to Eskom or municipalities.

“We, almost daily, get enquiries about farmers, businesses, and households that would like to put up solar photovoltaic (PV) and sell power to Eskom and municipalities,” Sonfin said.

Sonfin added that they have several farmers that already approached Eskom to offer to put up PV and even one hydroelectric system to sell power to Eskom which they do not use.

It added that the current Eskom rules for own use, which apply to farmers, also prohibit farmers from achieving a “zero Eskom account”.

The prohibitive policies include:

  • Peak power can only be used for offsetting against peak power. The same holds for standard and off-peak power.
  • Customer can only bank and offset, Eskom will not give credits for kWh that cannot be offset against actual consumption.
  • Customer must remain a net-consumer in a banking year.

These regulations restrict the size of the systems which farmers can install to help the country to meet its electricity needs.

Energy Minister’s statements not accurate

Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe recently claimed that available renewable energy, which could help the government to meet electricity demand, is a red herring that does not exist.

He added that he has “not had anybody who has come to the Department of Energy who said we have available energy and want to offer it to you”.

Sonfin told MyBroadband that it had several communications in this regard with the Department of Energy and the Minister.

They added that the Energy Department’s Request for Information last year for projects that could deliver power within 12 months had 481 responses. Since then, not much concrete has happened.

One of the biggest problems is that nothing happens within the timelines promised by the government.

“It takes a minimum of 18 months to get approval from Eskom for grid connection when they promise 180 days,” Sonfin said.

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