Thursday, July 19, 2018

Ways the City of Cape Town lies to you: registering off-grid solar power systems

Lately the City of Cape Town is driving me up the wall with its intellectually dishonest defenses of its increasingly invasive regulations. I suspect this is in no small part due to the Democratic Alliance's strong results in the last few local elections. They simply don't feel that they need the consent of the governed, so they make up whatever regulations and bureaucracy-serving edicts they see fit, with little to fear from a captive ANC-phobic electorate. They cynically wield this fear (largely justified, but prostating ourselves to the DA is not the only way to protect ourselves from ANC predation) as a weapon - a thought-terminating cliche.

My criticism in this post is centered on the front page article of the Constantia Bulletin, 19 July 2018, by Karen Watkins. As usual, this Watkins article reads like a press release from whomever she was interviewing. Exactly zero probing and challenging of rationales, barely even lip service to counter-arguments. This would no doubt be different if the article were about some pseudo-scientific BS like "electromagnetic hypersensitivity".
  1. Presumably quoting Xanthea Limberg, Watkins writes that "off-grid systems, or systems not connected to the grid directly or indirectly through a building's internal wiring, such as a solar-powered pool pump, must still register with the City so that they are not mistaken for an unauthorised SSEG installation".

    My response: not being mistaken for an unauthorised SSEG installation does not constitute a reason to force residents to register such systems. In our legal system, we are generally presumed innocent until proven guilty. Under that principle, a couple of solar panels on someone's roof should be presumed to not be an unauthorised SSEG installation until proven otherwise.

    In fact there's a very large class of households that the city must realise cannot be the home of an unauthorised SSEG installation: all those with prepaid meters. Prepaid meters are (or were, at least, when they were a new thing) designed specifically not to allow reverse power feeding: they do not allow power to flow from someone's rooftop PV installation onto the City's distribution grid. That's one very easy way to eliminate many cases of "mistaken for an unauthorised SSEG installation".
  2. "Ms Limberg urged people to register their systems for the safety of occupants and City staff, for grid stability and quality, the legal risk and grid cost."

    Bullshit, Ms Limberg: a solar power system that is not connected to the grid does not endanger City staff at all - that's inherently what "not connected to the grid" means. The safety of occupants is a valid concern, but maybe that should be up to the occupants to negotiate with the property owner? And who says there even are occupants besides the owner or the person who installed the oh-so-scary photovoltaic panels?

    Registering generating systems also has zero effect on grid stability and quality. Registering only creates a paper trail; it doesn't move electrons around in an electricity grid. Besides, we're talking about systems that are not connected to the grid!
  3. "Dr De Decker said the City could readily see transgressors on aerial maps and could check the address to see if owners had the necessary approval."

    Maybe just bad journalism from Watkins, because Dr De Decker is a system installer and has a commercial incentive to scare people into engaging their services. If instead this is a true reflection of the City's intentions, I would be very curious to know if such action would constitute a legal search. Spying on us like this, which is ostensibly justified to produce maps, but more recently also to inform municipal rates valuations, sans any concrete suspicion of wrongdoing, does not feel like justice. It feels like enduring the Stasi of East Germany.
  4. "Dr De Decker said ... She explained that if several houses were generating and using solar power and a cloud passed overhead, there was a resultant surge of electricity demand on the City's power. The City has to make provision for this as it puts pressure on the electrical transformer in the area."

    What nonsense is this? The Sun shines best at noon, which is nowhere near the morning and evening demand peaks which do stress the electrical infrastructure. And at worst, the full demand of these houses suddenly appears on the grid, just as it would in the absense of solar power and for which the electrical infrastructure is sized anyway. This sounds just like the thought-terminating cliches that I expect from a municipality, so I have to wonder if Dr De Decker is simply repeating City materials.

    If anyone incurs problems from sudden fluctuations in load, it is Eskom. I fail to see how City-owned infrastructure suffers from such fluctuations. And in any case, most solar power systems I've seen come with a storage system: a bank of batteries, that can certainly absorb the miniscule load variance that a cloud passing in front of the Sun would cause.
  5. "There is currently no fee for registration itself" HAHAHAHA and I have a bridge I'd like to sell you, it goes all the way to the moon you see, if you believe that there won't be a fee in future, once people are registered and captive to the City's predations.
David Lipschitz, apparently the only person not bought into his own lies in this story, "believes this new legislative requirement will drive more people away from providing electricity for themselves and, worse, it will drive away a massive opportunity for homeowners and business owners to put in bigger systems than they need so they can supply excess electricity into the grid, day and night." Indeed. Just finding out about this requirement today has made me lose interest in installing any solar panels on my roof. Luckily I've barely spent any money on supplies so far.

But I'll have my petty revenge. From now on, when I turn on my water heater so that I can shower in superarctic temperature, I will do it when it is least convenient for the City's "grid stability" pseudo-concern: at 7am or at 7pm.