Image credit: African Utility Week

Bruce Raw, CSO at GreenCape, discusses the future of bi-directional metering in South Africa and the readiness of our grid to incorporate renewable energy in an interview with ESI Africa.

According to Bruce, most of municipalities, as well as Eskom, have embraced the fact that renewable energy is on the rise and that grid infrastructure will require an upgrade. As with the rest of the world, the country is moving into a more liberated and competitive market.

This has resulted in a greater number of residential and commercial entities exploring own generation, generating and even storing power generated from solar panels on site. This is creating a need to be able to export excess energy back onto the grid.

The trend is that the value of this energy is paid to the customers at bulk purchase rates that the municipalities themselves buy for. This in turn creates a market space where all generators are selling at the same price, making for a fair and competitive market place.

Bruce explains that not all municipalities are able to participate in this trend. Larger metros such as the City of Cape Town or utilities such as City Power in Johannesburg already have a fair number of bi-directional meters, allowing customers to sell back to the grid.

Smaller municipalities have less infrastructure in place, with many struggling to collect all outstanding revenue from their customers.

There is clearly a need for metering upgrades in these smaller municipalities. This deficit might provide an opportunity for them to leapfrog some of the older metering technology,  to more intelligent systems able to manage the impact of renewable energy.

All municipal institutions have seen the status quo as a challenge they need to move towards and tackle. It will take a while to install the required infrastructure, which will likely occur on a meter replacement bases. This has started and should gain momentum with time.

The own generation trend will continue as prices of renewable technology continue to drop and the landscape becomes more attractive to customers, warns Raw.

Current tariff structures allow for a strong business case for renewable energy. A short-term shift will result from financial institutions getting a handle on how to finance this type of generation, he states. Further to this, with more appropriate finance mechanisms in place, renewable energy projects will become more popular, as it is easier for them to be revenue positive from day one.

View the full interview here.