South Africa has taken a step towards ending load shedding – but there’s a snag

Changing the law to allow private businesses to self-generate up to 100MW of electricity with minimal regulatory red tape should be a relatively straightforward process.

Less clear at this point is whether restrictions on the sale of excess electricity to Eskom or municipalities will also be relaxed, says Claire Tucker, head of public law and regulatory at law firm Bowmans.

Last week, president Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the registration threshold for self-generation facilities is to be raised from 1MW to 100MW, indicating that Schedule 2 of the Electricity Regulation Act will be amended within two months to allow for this.

“A consultation process had already commenced (before the president’s announcement) regarding amendments to raise the licensing threshold to 10MW,” said Tucker.

“This means the amendment process should be fairly straightforward and is likely to include consultation with the public on draft wording.”

As it stands, Schedule 2 of the Electricity Regulation Act only exempts self-generation facilities up to 1MW from the obligation to obtain a licence but requires them to ‘register’ the facility with the National Electricity Regulator of South Africa (NERSA).

“Registration is guaranteed provided the facility meets the Grid Code requirements and has an arrangement with the relevant grid provider regarding the connection of the facility,” Tucker said.

It is expected that this will also be the case for private businesses generating up to 100MW once section 2 is amended.

“It is understood that the exemption will apply to both self-generation facilities located on site of the load and facilities located elsewhere which use the grid to ‘wheel’ power to the facility,” she said.

However, the amendment does not automatically mean that private facilities can sell to Eskom or to municipal grid providers.

“The change facilitates private sales of electricity from an independent power producer (IPP) to a private customer. Sales to Eskom or a municipal grid would have to follow a procurement process within Eskom or the municipality,” said Tucker.

“Previously, the Minister had indicated that sales to Eskom or the municipality would still require a licence.”

It remains to be seen whether this requirement will be dropped, allowing freer trading in electricity between the private sector and the national and municipal grid, she said.

Read: Ramaphosa’s energy changes are a start – but load shedding isn’t going anywhere: economists

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South Africa has taken a step towards ending load shedding – but there’s a snag