Every sector has its share of jargon and the renewable energy area can be very confusing. Two years ago the title of this post would have been meaningless to me and now it’s cause for celebration!
Embedded generation is the term used for any electricity generating ‘plant’ that is connected to the regional electricity distribution networks. In other words our solar energy system will be designed and set up to feed into the ‘grid’.
Firstly, once the municipality has the infrastructure in place (and we’ve signed off on all the paperwork known as Power Purchase Agreements) we will be able to export our excess electricity for profit. It also means that the set up cost of our system is substantially reduced as we don’t need to invest in batteries to the same extent (approximately $8 000.00 saving). This is because we have now decided not to be ‘off-grid’ i.e. not totally independent but rather ‘grid-tied’ so we can also draw electricity if we have very protracted cloudy weather. In other words we are to be part of a bi-directional metering pilot project. We need only invest in batteries to tide us overnight (and a bit extra in case of outages).
The bigger picture, of course, is that significant growth in embedded generation (of all kinds; wind, bio-fuels etc.) will contribute to a reduction of our dependence on ‘dirty’ energy (ESKOM Coal in the case of South Africa) which is important for the environment. It will also reduce the cost of energy which is currently predicted to increase 16% annually in South Africa.
South Africa Lags Behind
Embedded generation is fairly mainstream in Europe, North America and Australia. In South Africa the Western Cape is piloting 6 properties, Port Elizabeth a few more and currently, that is it! We recently read in the press that 17 bidders have been selected by government to produce 1 500 megawatts of renewable energy and more will follow. Good news but we have much catching up to do.
The time frame for Durban Municipality to come on line by July 2014 is ambitious if one studies the document ‘Creating an Enabling Environment for Small Scale Embedded Generators.’ Published at the Association of Municipal Electricity Utilities (AMEU) convention that took place in October 2014. It tells of a plethora of legislation that needs to be amended, technical requirements that are not standardised and the perception that local government is perceived as a blockage rather than and enabling agent.
Currently financial barriers are identified as the biggest barrier to investment. In SA it is extremely expensive to set up one’s own system (see my post of October 2013, Solar Energy: What does it Cost. How to Explore Feasibility). Rebates for installing Solar Geysers (only) are about $1 000 on a $ 2 800 investment through the SHISA programme. It would help if additional incentives such as rebates, tax credits and financing mechanisms were provided to customers over and above the SHISA programme. Offering our citizens a way to make money from excess energy generated is a logical way to mitigate the high initial outlay, will stimulate and demand and hopefully drive prices down. Tariffs will need to be carefully considered. It is unlikely that we will be remunerated at the same rate/s that we pay for electricity but if the differential is too great it will not be motivational.
Durban property owners who are interested in becoming Embedded Generators need to start by completing the application form which can be downloaded here.
Come on everyone! The more of us that put up our hands and make our voices heard the more momentum this process will get. It has to be part of our way forward in saving this beautiful planet. So if you have the means now, this can be a huge contribution you could make and with all things that are correct and true and have integrity, as the law of abundance teaches us; ‘What you put out will be returned’.
An example of the PPA can be found here.
You can learn more about the Shisa Solar programme here: http://www.durban.gov.za/Resource_Centre/Current%20Projects%20and%20Programmes/energyoffice/Pages/Shisa-Solar.aspx