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Sunday, July 17, 2016

City preventing mayor's power dream from becoming reality. David Lipschitz letter to the Cape Times published Wed 20 Apr 2016

At the City of Cape Town Energy Efficiency Quarterly Forum on Wednesday. March 16, Mayor Patricia de Lille said her dream was that every house should be a power station generating electricity for the grid. And another part of her dream is that Tesla and other electric vehicle suppliers come to town and we have electric cars and electric busses for the MyCiti system.

This is a dream I also have.

But the city is doing everything it can to prevent the mayor and my dream from becoming a reality.

Why? Because the city is scared of losing electricity revenue.

So they are sitting on their hands fiddling with electricity tariffs and service fees while their customers go elsewhere.

Some of these customers are talking about going "off grid", i.e. separating themselves from the grid. We heard at the forum that this will be economically viable within five years, using solar panels, batteries and inverters.

But the mayor's and my dream is that houses should be power stations. In order for this to happen, houses must remain connected to the grid. And for this to happen, the people who could have gone off grid will need to be incentivised to stay on the grid.

The first incentive: no service fee. At the moment, the city is instituting service or connection fees for all its clients. See the new "home user" tariff in the City's draft tariff announcement. Their reasoning is that people will need the grid from time to time to charge their batteries or to run high power loads, and that this grid infrastructure needs to be maintained.

What the city has forgotten is that it too needs electricity for its buildings, for its infrastructure, for its business clients, and soon for its electric buses. And in a few years' time for its new pumped storage systems that it will build as part of its rollout of new dams to prevent water shortages in future. These pumped storage systems are massive and efficient batteries. The City will need the cheap electricity generated by rooftop electric systems during the day to pump water from the lower dam to the higher dam and it can then sell this electricity at night or on rainy days to its users at higher prices.

Additionally surplus electricity generated during the day can be used for desalination, thus averting our water crisis and at the same time providing water for the dams.

And whist Eskom say that there will be a surplus of electricity in five years' time, who knows what it will cost. There is a massive shortage of electricity at the moment, and in five years' time thousands, or perhaps millions, of homeowners and business owners will have "defected" from the electricity grid and will be producing their own electricity for their own consumption, and will have physically disconnected themselves from the grid in order not to pay the service fees.

At the same time as this, with solar-electric prices coming down every year, within five years, solar-electric electricity will be cheaper than Eskom's selling prices to the municipalities.

Wouldn't the City rather buy cheaper, clean electricity from its own inhabitants than buy expensive, dirty electricity from Eskom?

Wouldn't it be much better to allow a free connection, but to tell home-based power stations that they must supply the grid when there is a shortage of electricity, i.e. when electricity is expensive and buy from the grid when electricity is cheap?

This is entirely feasible with modern Smart Meters, Time of Use Tariffs, Net Metering, Demand Response and existing battery technology.

[left out in the newspaper:
Net Metering means that one buys and sells electricity at the same price. I would recommend that CNEM be introduced, i.e. City of Cape Town Net Metering. In CNEM, electricity sold to the grid by home owners and other "embedded generators" is sold at 80 percent of the current buying price.
Time of Use Tariffs means that the tariff changes depending on demand and supply. And Smart Meters means that the City will know exactly how much homeowners are producing, how much they are capable of exporting to the grid, and how much they are buying or selling from or to the grid at any particular time.
Demand response means that the City can disconnect or reduce its local electricity users electricity consumption with short notice, that saving on expensive electricity from Eskom, and at the same time making the local Western Cape grid more reliable, resilient, and it's electricity cheaper than elsewhere in the world.]

The mayor and my dream can become a reality. But it needs the mayor and her committee to talk to their citizens instead of producing reports which tell the world how fantastic they are, whilst they ignore their citizens, and whilst they ignore their future.

[Also left out in the newspaper:
There is a lot of research in strategic circles of over-reliance on experts, and under-reliance on grassroots research and citizen scientists' knowledge. Experts want the status quo to stay as it is - then they can keep their jobs!! But it is time for the City to act on this research!
And once everyone is a power station, then everyone will be contributing to a healthy environment where everyone has jobs and the city remains the world's best, cleanest and healthiest city in which to live.]

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