Solar Systems and Registration 2.0

29 April 2022


On the Sunny Side of Life: Solar Systems and Registration

It has recently come to many a Capetonian’s attention when selling their property that certain certificates need to be provided besides the standard electrical and water clearance certificate: namely, confirmation of registration of the solar system on the City of Cape Town’s website.  Indicative of the name, this does not fall within the ambit of an electrical compliance certificate.

While soaking up and basking in the sun may have had more positive connotations in the past, it may cause one or two sellers a headache today in trying wrap one’s head around the solar system’s registration certificate. It is set out below what exactly a photovoltaic system entails and whether such need be registered or not.

Do you know which certificates are needed when selling your property?

Mandatory registration of solar systems

Small scale embedded generation (SSEG) systems, devices or machines designed to generate and supply electricity to a solar system installation, pose a safety risk when being connected to the City’s grid. It is therefore required under the Cape Town City Electrical Supply By-law of 2010 that they be registered and authorized. Registration ensures that all who make use of the electricity from the City’s grid pay for such accordingly. Consequently, it is illegal to run one’s meter backwards or to avoid paying one’s share of maintenance towards the grid. Should a system be unauthorized and tied to a grid, such will be considered as tampering.

Besides SSEG systems, solar photovoltaic (PV) systems must also be registered, be they on or off grid systems, while other solar systems need not necessarily undergo the registration process. As can quickly be deciphered, it may be a little complicated determining which systems to register and which not. To ensure that no confusion arises, the City has necessitated off-grid systems to also be registered so as to prevent them from being mistaken with grid-tied systems.

Differentiating between solar photovoltaic systems


There are 4 main categories of PV systems, all of which must be registered according to the City’s By-law of 2010, come rain or shine:

  1. Grid-tied feed in PV systems

The grid-tied feed consists of PV panels that are directly connected to an inverter which allows the system to generate electricity that is used locally on one’s own property. Should excess electricity be generated, such will be fed back into the electricity grid and, in doing so, one is able to receive credit from the City.

  1. Grid-tied non-feed in PV systems

Also known as grid-tied PV systems with reverse power blocking, these systems use generated electricity on the property only when there is need for such. Unlike the previous grid-tied feed in PV system, this one does blocks excess electricity from being fed back into the grid.

  1. Grid-tied hybrid PV systems

The hybrid system is able to disconnect incoming electricity and connect the load to the PV system or store the energy in batteries. This system can operate during and is ideal for load-shedding scenarios.

  1. Standalone or off-grid PV systems

The off-grid PV system has no connection between the system and the City’s grid. Instead, it stores electricity in batteries and charge controllers. It operates via electrical circuits that are wired separately and in isolation from the electricity service provider grid.

An example of an off-grid standalone PV system would be connecting a pool pump to a solar PV system rather than to the building’s wiring. Another example is a changeover switch installed so that the property can only use electricity form either the PV system or from the City’s grid, but never from both simultaneously.

A place in the sun but registration only for some?

Registration luckily does not apply to everything under the sun: solar water heaters which use thermal energy to heat water or emergency equipment like standby generators (unless they are connected to the City’s electrical distribution network) for example, need not be registered. However, solar PV panels directly connected to a hot water geyser element with a change-over switch are required to be registered.

The question may arise as to why an off-grid system need be registered in the first place, particularly since it is not connected to the City’s electricity infrastructure or power grid. However, it appears that of the systems that have been registered thus far, only 2% have been confirmed as actually being off-grid systems.

Nevertheless, in terms of the registration of off-grid systems, such need not comply with City standards. Importantly, off-grid equipment is still required to comply with national safety standards. In addition, a letter signed by a registered electrician will be necessary that verifies the system as being an off-grid one. Small systems like solar-powered appliances or solar lights may keep their moment in the sun and need not be registered.

Does registration translate to a not-so bright future of taxation on solar systems?

The City underlines that the reason for registration rests with trying to ensure the compliance to safety and legality requirements. Registration allows the municipality to keep track of all solar systems in the municipality. On the bright side, by keeping a record of the PV systems, the City can apply this information to controlling electricity demand, managing the quality of supply and planning future investment in electricity infrastructure. However, these altruistic motives seem slightly suspicious when taking into consideration that penalties result from not registering one’s system as well as the fact that the registration of systems is being checked via aerial photographs to identify PV systems. The question as to whether taxation may follow however, has not been answered as of yet.

Celine Bakker, Author.

Find out more about Celine Bakker, a Candidate Attorney at SL Law. She graduated from Stellenbosch University with a BA (law) majoring in German and completed her LLB degree at the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam, focussing on Tech and Artificial Intelligence Law.


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