Eskom’s New Proposed Tariff: Could technology help consumers and the national grid?

Eskom recently proposed a revised tariff structure which, if approved by Nersa, will charge residential consumers based on when they use electricity. It serves to manage peak periods by charging customers more for using electricity during these times. As energy charges will be split into peak, standard or off-peak periods, customers could possibly pay more or less, depending on their consumption profile. Dr Andrew Dickson, Executive: Engineering at CBI-electric: low voltage says that should the new structure come into effect, various technologies could help customers monitor and manage their energy usage. 

Curbing consumption and costs 

He points out that not only can tools like smart home technologies help users keep an eye on which appliances are consuming the most electricity, but also turn them off remotely when they are not in use or during peak periods. “This is crucial, seeing that leaving multiple appliances on standby could be responsible for up to 10% of a household’s electricity bill.” 

“Amenities like geysers and washing machines which draw large energy loads can be scheduled using this technology to turn on only during off-peak periods to further control costs. For example, geysers can be scheduled to turn on before sunrise which will ensure that a hot shower is available in the morning, while also managing energy consumption in line with the time-of-use tariffs. Additionally, as there will be different peak and off-peak periods for summer and winter which consumers will be charged against, users can sync their smart home app with a weather app, enabling them to switch the appropriate appliances on or off or schedule them depending on the weather,” adds Dr Dickson. 

Profiting from reduced reliance on the grid 

With Eskom also set to charge residential customers who make use of embedded generation solutions a mandatory tariff based on their consumption of electricity from the national grid, he suggests that the same technology could be used to connect and disconnect from the grid. “Moreover, South Africans can choose which of their appliances are connected to their own power generation systems and when they are connected. One of our customers, for instance, connects their freezer to a smart plug which draws from the grid during the day and then switches it to run off batteries charged by solar power in the evening.” 

Dr Dickson notes that as customers using embedded generation solutions will be credited for feeding power to the grid, receiving a full credit during peak times and a lower rate during off-peak or standard periods, bi-directional smart metering technology can be used to monitor how much power their systems have generated and determine when to push excess power back into the grid. 

Nersa has until 7 November to decide if these and other changes will come into effect on 1 April 2023. “Regardless of whether the revised tariff structure is approved, we need to be more conscious of our consumption and aware of the impact we are having not only on the country’s grid but the planet too. As it stands, South Africa is still overly reliant on coal, with renewable energy accounting for only 6.6% of the total energy mix. Not all South Africans can switch to renewable energy sources, but all South Africans can change how they use electricity as well as how much. Now is the time to make the changes necessary to ensure a brighter future for South Africans and the country as a whole,” he concludes. 

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