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Cape Town’s rooftop solar boom at record levels

Cape Town’s rooftop solar boom is at record levels, with August 2023 seeing the highest ever solar PV installation applications to the City. More than 1 500 small-scale embedded generation applications were received in August 2023, a 50% increase compared to July, the previous record-holding month at around 1 000 applications. This as more and more Capetonians are installing solar PV and battery systems to avoid Eskom’s load-shedding and to take advantage of forthcoming City incentives to pay cash for power generated by residents.  

The City is working to shorten authorisation times by developing a forthcoming easy-to-use online applications portal. Turnaround times are further expected to be drastically reduced from 1 October 2023, the date from which all SSEG systems will need a City-approved inverter and professional sign off, with all systems to be regarded as grid-tied. This is due to an increase in fly-by-night operators offering systems of inferior quality, or which are not wired correctly, a practice which is contributing to extended outages when power returns after load-shedding.

 ‘Each new month has broken the solar PV applications record for four months straight since May 2023, with over 100 MW and counting of installed capacity in Cape Town. We are determined to make it more viable for households to go solar, with a cheaper AMI meter option to be rolled out early in the new year, alongside Cape Town’s cash for power incentives for households and businesses to sell their excess power to us

‘Enabling more rooftop solar forms part of our broader plans to add 1GW of independent power from various sources to Cape Town’s grid over time. The first 650MW is forecasted to come online by 2025/26 to protect against the first four stages of Eskom’s load-shedding, which will be achieved largely through a mix of Steenbras Hydro Plant; 500MW of dispatchable energy; and demand management programmes, including the forthcoming Power Heroes incentives for households to flatten peak usage,’ said Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis.

 ‘The City is moving toward a future grid for all – where customers use and generate electricity as part of an integrated network. This is the exciting future of the changing energy environment internationally and also in our own backyard. We have been sending the signal for a few months now that from 1 October, only SSEG systems using City-approved inverters with professional sign-off will be authorised, and all systems will be regarded as grid-tied. This will dramatically improve the authorisation turnaround time, improve safety, prevent the risk of area outages due to inferior systems connected to the grid and help to protect our homeowners from the many fly-by-night operators out there. We thank those in the industry who are already driving safe and legal systems, our teams are here to assist all stakeholders in this transition,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Energy, Councillor Beverley van Reenen in a recent address to solar industry stakeholders.

 National legislation and regulations require authorisation:

National legislation and regulations require the authorisation of all power generating systems connected to the electricity supply. Authorisation requirements have been around for almost a decade and the City continues to work to refine processes to the benefit of customers.

Making the application process faster, safer

  1. From October 2023 all SSEG systems will need a City-approved inverterand professional sign off. Currently many systems using non-approved inverters are not wired correctly, posing risks to the safety and integrity of the network. This significantly slows down the registration process because there are too many different wiring configurations for the City professionals to consider. Reducing the wiring configurations speeds up the process.

To note: this applies to solar PV and battery systems connected into wiring of the building. It doesn’t apply to the trolley inverters for example that plug into wall sockets. These are regarded as electrical appliances.

  1. Applications for standby and off-grid systems will not be accepted. Pre-October authorisations and applications will remain valid and be processed, but priority will be given to grid-tied systems using City-approved inverters.
  2. The City is working on an online application process.

Checklist to guide customers through the process:

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