Cape Town’s solar application woes: Residents left in the dark and facing fines

Waiting for the green light on solar panel installations in Cape Town has become a frustrating ordeal for its residents. With approval backlogs of up to five months and the threat of hefty fines looming, homeowners are feeling the pressure. The City of Cape Town (CoCT) is struggling to keep up with the high demand and lack of communication, leaving applicants in the dark. Myles Illidge uncovers the challenges faced by residents, the measures they’re taking to protect their homes, and the promising plans for an improved application system. Read more to learn about the solar panel dilemma gripping Cape Town.

Cape Town’s massive solar problem — five month wait for permission to install

By Myles Illidge

Residents of the City of Cape Town (CoCT) are waiting up to five months for permission to install solar panels on their roofs and face fines if they do so before getting approval.

Solar Advice informed MyBroadband of the issues the City and its residents are facing, adding that support lines are clogged, with a complete lack of communication on applications that have already been submitted.

“All areas are experiencing significant backlogs in applications as there are no set deadlines for when these applications need to be processed,” it said.

“Then the consumer will have to wait for approval to use their solar panels, which they will only receive after an Electrical Engineer has signed off having done the final site inspection.”

“If a consumer does not apply for approval before installing and using solar power, they are liable for fines ranging from R5000-R7000, and the CoCT will cut the power supply to their home,” Solar Advice added.

Read more: Cape Town breaks solar power records amidst electricity crisis

While some areas of Cape Town are processing applications within three months, others have a backlog of up to five months.

“Area South has the fastest processing time of around three months. However, they are also extremely slow with processing applications, as some applications submitted in March of this year have yet to be processed,” Solar Advice told MyBroadband.

“Area East is still processing applications submitted in January, so they have a backlog of around five months.”

One Energy Cape Town franchise owner Adrian Kenneth-Watts confirmed the issues. He told MyBroadband they install batteries and inverters first to protect from load-shedding while customers wait for approval.

Read more: Do-it-yourself solar could cost 2-3 times more than grid-tied systems

“We are aware of the delayed lead times, which is why we counter this by installing the backup- components (batteries and inverter) first to protect our clients from load-shedding, and then do the installation of panels later when the application has been processed,” he said.

“It’s down to extremely high demand and an increase in solar installations. It is reassuring that installers and homeowners are much more aware of the due diligence required and are complying with the registration requirements.”

“Once their application is processed and we get the go-ahead of the registration, we come back to put the panels on the roof,” Kenneth-Watts added.

Solar Advice said one of the most frustrating issues is that there is no communication on applications that have already been submitted.

Moreover, emailed queries or urgent questions go unanswered for a week or longer.

Councillor Beverley van Reenen, City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member for Energy.

CoCT mayoral committee member for energy Councillor Beverley van Reenen told MyBroadband that the City is struggling with the volume of applications and incomplete or incorrect submissions.

“The volume of applications and associated administration required. In addition, residents or their service providers often submit incomplete or incorrect information or do not submit all required documentation which can cause delays,” said Van Reenen.

However, she added that the City is working on an online application system to streamline the process.

Read more: Jaltech launches tax deductible solar investment

“The authorisation process can take between three and six months, provided that residents supply the City with all the relevant information,” said Van Reenen.

“A streamlined online registration system is currently under development and seeks to dramatically improve the turnaround time for authorisation.”

Regarding the communication issues, Van Reenen confirmed there were no technical issues with their support lines and said the volume of applications is pressuring the authorisation teams.

“There are no technical issues. The volume of applications has led to pressure on the teams, and where the required documentation is not submitted, delays are caused, compounding the situation,” she said.

Van Reenen also offered advice to CoCT residents who wish to install solar panels on their roofs that would help speed up the application process.

“Solar PV systems that are configured as grid-tied or grid-tied hybrid systems using City-approved inverters, are typically approved faster than systems configured as standby or off-grid systems,” she said.

The CoCT provides guidance on solar power installations in its Small-Scale Embedded Generation FAQ document and its Rooftop PV Guide.

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This article was first published by My Broadband and is republished with permission

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