Nersa to back down on rooftop solar rules

Energy regulator Nersa will soon withdraw proposed rules that would have required private owners of rooftop solar panels and standby generators to register these installations with it. It might, however, return at a later stage.

On 26 April, Nersa published for public comment draft rules for the registration of small-scale embedded generation with a capacity of less than 1MW. The rules would have applied to residential rooftop solar panels, standby generators, co-generation by industry and commercial or industrial power generation whether they were connected to the grid or not, as long as it does not exceed the 1MW cap.

This was met with widespread resistance, with claims that government was over-reaching.

Individuals, who have invested heavily in alternative energy in an effort to become more independent from Eskom or municipal power, objected to perceived government control over their systems and potential levying of tariffs on self-generated power.

The consultation paper containing Nersa’s rules proposal followed a notice by the minister of energy published in the Government Gazette late last year that gave exemption to these small-scale generators from the obligation to require a licence to generate electricity from Nersa. Such licences are required for all power stations and obtaining it is a lengthy and costly process.

The rules proposed by Nersa would have given effect to the notice by the department of energy.

However, Nersa on Friday issued a press release stating that the minister “has recently amended the gazetted licensing exemption and registration notice”. The regulator did not clarify what the amendment entailed. It merely indicated that it would review its proposed rules since the two documents had to be aligned. Neither the department of energy nor Nersa would supply a copy of the amendment.

Eventually, Moneyweb determined that although Nersa has had sight of the proposed amendment, it has not yet been gazetted and therefore does not yet have any official standing.

Moneyweb has been told that the minister will now first invite public comment before finalising the notice. Only once this has been finalised will Nersa embark on a process to finalise the rules.

Nersa, in the meantime, will have to go through a governance process before it can officially withdraw the current consultation paper with proposed rules. Once that has been done, the paper will be withdrawn, to be aligned with the notice, once that has been finalised.

  • This article was originally published on Moneyweb and is used here with permission