No reason for government to be involved in personal electricity generation

The draft Rules for Registration of Small-Scale Embedded Generation published by the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) state that every form of home electricity generation – including solar photo-voltaic (PV) panels and backup generators, will have to be registered with the government. Not content with the continuous waste of taxpayer money on the Apartheid-era fossil that is Eskom, the government wants to be in control of how you choose to generate power for your own household. 

According to the new rules, no customer may connect to the distribution system (municipality or Eskom) without:

  1. Submitting an application for registration to NERSA.
  2. Receiving a quotation after the application from the distributor‚ paying the required connection charge/fees and signing the required connection and use-of-system agreement.
  3. Ensuring the connection and the equipment used are certified to comply with all required technical standards.

The state, in all its various forms, agencies, and bodies, is already taking on such a large burden through all the different ways it assumes responsibility for many aspects of people’s lives. Energy generation does not fall within the proper role of government, and thus it makes no sense as to why it is attempting to increase its reach into people’s lives such that it comes to know, and accept or reject, when people want to establish their own forms of electricity generation.

Whether a household is connected to the national electricity system or not, all sources of electricity will have to be registered. If you disconnect from the unreliable source that is Eskom and decide that you value green energy generation, for example, you will have to inform NERSA.

As of January 2018, Eskom’s profits were down by 34%, and its debt was over R300 billion. It makes sense that individual households and companies have been investing in personal electricity since the blackouts of 2008. No business, whatever its size, can perform to its best capacity when its power randomly fails for unknown periods of time.

NERSA states that the new Rules are “aimed at creating the orderly management and treatment of Small-Scale Embedded Generation.” It is not government’s purview to manage what private citizens use, on their private property, to generate electricity for themselves. People who want to invest in private energy sources will be threatened and possibly punished if they do not register with NERSA.

A competitive market in energy generation would result in lower prices and better services. While energy from coal is less expensive than energy from green sources, a market in which different providers try to compete would bring down the cost of energy. Eskom is backed by government and continually bailed out despite its failures, just like SAA. South Africans have no option but to ensure that their electricity source is reliable and secure.

If a private individual or company wants to assume the role of electricity generation for themselves, it is no business of the government. The rules are unnecessary and will only add more red tape onto private citizens who simply want to make sure they have a reliable source of energy.

If the state is concerned about providing electricity to poorer South Africans, it can take appropriate measures. The proposed rules put forward by NERSA have no logic and would bring yet another part of people’s personal lives under the overview of the state. Such encroachments need to be opposed at every turn.

Chris Hattingh is a Researcher at the Free Market Foundation

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