While State-owned power utility Eskom and the National Energy Regulator of South Africa continue their legal battles and with another tariff hike looming in April 2021, households and businesses might well be asking what this means for them, says the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA).
Coupled with the sporadic implementation of load-shedding, many people and businesses are starting to consider solar photovoltaic (PV) installations.
SAPVIA COO Niveshen Govender says that, although the affordability of a PV installation compared with the monthly electricity bill should be considered, there are also other aspects to consider
He adds that, to ensure a safe and legal installation, home or business owners should follow specific guidelines before installing a PV system.
A solar PV installation can either be connected to the national grid, but block any excess electricity generated from feeding back into the grid, or be connected to the grid with surplus energy generated being directed back into the grid, or as a standalone system where the PV system generates electricity for use on site and operates independent from the grid.
Govender notes that, if a household or business decides to install a grid-tied system, they will need to register and request approval from the distribution authority. Most municipalities that allow this have the necessary documentation on their website.
“A grid-tied system can only be connected once the municipal authority grants permission in writing.”
Additionally, Govender laments the importance of verifying that a service provider has adequate experience in PV installations and is a member of SAPVIA, the Electrical Contractors Association (Ecasa) or the Engineering Council of South Africa.
Specifically, SAPVIA grants a PV GreenCard as a safety certification for service providers that have undergone specialised training and assessments, meeting national standards and municipal regulations.
On completion of a PV installation, a certified PV GreenCard installer will issue the client with a document that details all the specifications of the system, as well as a checklist that all the required installation steps were completed to the required standard.
After the installation, Govender recommends that clients request an original Electrical Certificate of Compliance and Quality Assurance Certificates to safeguard against any damage and to check for roof leaks to make sure that no roof damage has occurred as a result of the installation.
He also advises clients to ensure they obtain all warranties, guarantees and operation and maintenance manuals from the service provider.
Should a client not be satisfied with an installation, they can request an inspection from an authorised inspection authority registered with the Department of Employment and Labour, the Ecasa ombudsman or an independent consultant.