In an era where sustainable energy is gaining prominence, many South African homeowners are considering installing solar panels to harness the power of the sun. However, for residents living in complexes or estates, the process can be more complex due to the involvement of homeowners associations or body corporates. In this blog post, we will explore the considerations, processes, and potential benefits of installing solar panels in South African complexes, shedding light on this green energy solution.
1. Permission to Install Solar Panels in a Complex
Before embarking on the solar journey, residents must understand the governing rules and regulations of their complex. If living in a Body Corporate governed by the Sectional Titles Schemes Management Act (STSMA), approval for installations on common property is necessary. A special general meeting is typically required, where a quorum of owners must approve the installation. The Body Corporate can also amend their Conduct Rules to facilitate the approval process, ensuring a smoother transition towards solar energy.
For residents in Homeowners Associations (HOA), checking the HOA’s Memorandum of Incorporate, Conduct, and Aesthetics Rules is essential. If these rules do not accommodate solar installations, amendments may be needed to allow for the integration of sustainable alternatives.
2. DIY vs. Professional Suppliers
The solar industry in South Africa is currently unregulated, making it imperative for consumers to exercise caution. While it is possible to source and assemble solar system components independently, this approach carries risks. To ensure a seamless installation and reliable after-sales service, it is advisable to engage reputable suppliers. Additionally, compatibility between components must be considered, as certain technologies may not work well together.
3. Seeking Professional Solar Suppliers
Given the unregulated nature of the solar industry, it is crucial to find reliable and experienced suppliers. Consumers should look for track records, stability, and the ability to issue Certificates of Compliance for the installation. Requesting references and verifying successful installations can provide peace of mind and help in making an informed decision.
4. Role of Body Corporate in Energy Management
Body Corporates play a significant role in facilitating sustainable energy management within complexes. By establishing rules and frameworks that support solar installations, they can streamline the approval process. For larger complexes, negotiating with suppliers to install solar systems on a collective basis may be financially viable, with potential funding options and rebates for owners. However, smaller complexes may face challenges due to economies of scale.
5. Exploring Other Options
In addition to purchasing solar systems outright, residents can consider options such as individual financing, bulk installations for the entire complex, renting space to solar providers, or even selling solar-generated power to individual owners. However, alternatives like generators can pose challenges due to fuel storage and escalating operational costs.
6. Registration and Insurance for Solar Systems
Property owners do not require prior permission to install solar panels. However, according to the National Energy Regulator (Nersa), new regulations are being drafted to require citizens to register and pay license fees for their solar systems. Insurance coverage differs between Body Corporate and HOA situations, with Body Corporate insurances covering the common property, while owners in HOAs need to insure their solar systems separately.
7. Municipal and Governmental Laws
The South African government is taking steps towards promoting renewable energy. Nersa’s regulations reflect a push for registration and licensing of solar systems, while President Ramaphosa’s plans aim to remove the licensing cap on private sector renewable energy projects. These developments provide grounds for optimism regarding the future of solar energy in South Africa.
8. Fixture or Removable?
Whether a solar system is considered a fixture or removable depends on the policies and rules of the complex. The lifespan of the system, decommissioning, and reinstatement of common property are factors to negotiate with relevant stakeholders.
9. Going Solar: Worth the Investment?
Despite the complexities, going solar in South African complexes offers numerous benefits. With electricity and water constraints, abundant natural resources, and building regulations favoring renewable energy, solar power presents an opportunity for residents to contribute to environmental sustainability while potentially reducing energy costs.
10. The Future of Solar in South Africa
As the demand for solar energy continues to rise, it is likely that the industry will become better regulated. This will lead to clearer legal requirements and potentially the establishment of consumer protection measures such as an ombud. While this may add complexity, it will also provide increased clarity and ensure consumer confidence in the solar market.
In conclusion, installing solar panels in South African complexes requires careful consideration and adherence to governing rules and regulations. By navigating the approval processes, engaging reputable suppliers, and leveraging the potential benefits of collective efforts, residents can contribute to a greener future while potentially saving on energy costs. With a growing focus on renewable energy, the solar industry in South Africa holds promise for a sustainable and brighter future.
Retha Kriek is the owner and managing director of Rozewood, a leading managing agent in South Africa. With extensive experience in property management, Retha is passionate about promoting sustainable practices within complexes and empowering homeowners to make informed decisions about solar installations.