Increased risks associated with the installation of alternative energy sources have led to mounting calls for consumers not to take short cuts when installing inverters and other items powered by rechargeable batteries, solar installations or when using generators.
The City's Fire and Rescue Service said the increased use of inverters and other systems compelled it to revisit its incident management playbook.
The City was alerted to a number of incidents, including four people overcome by fumes from a generator in Parow where one person died. Also, a gas explosion at a home in Hout Bay caused by the gas source not being switched off resulted in a resident sustaining burn wounds.
In another incident, solar panels on the roof of a factory caused the wires to arch, resulting in a fire.
Safety and Security Mayco member JP Smith said a fire at a Vodacom building in Century City which apparently started from solar panels on Sunday was the latest incident caused by alternative energy installations, as those in the corporate and residential sectors battled to mitigate the effects of large-scale rolling blackouts.
Smith said they had noted the increased use of items like inverters and other items, powered by rechargeable batteries, solar installations and the use of generators, and as of October this year, only City-approved inverters would be accepted for solar PV and/or battery systems.
“While these devices are fulfilling a crucial role in keeping users' lights on, and keeping their businesses going during load shedding, users are also reminded that they can pose a risk if not installed, stored or utilised properly.
In fact, systems that are not installed properly, safely and legally are one of the largest contributors to extended power outages.
“Solar PV and/or battery systems must be installed by a competent installer who must provide a certificate of compliance. All systems that are connected to the wiring of the building must be registered with the City of Cape Town before installation and, from October 2023, only City-approved inverters will be accepted for these systems. This is to reduce the risk of electrocution of those working on electrical grids and also to speed up the solar system authorisation turnaround time,” said Smith.
The South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (Sapvia) said it supported the City’s call for compliant installations.
“In promoting the use of Solar PV specifically, we have always maintained the need for professional, safe and compliant installations. We therefore fully support the City's request that end users ensure that the installers of their systems are duly qualified. To this end, we have driven the adoption of the PV Greencard programme, which aims to develop appropriately trained and qualified installers within businesses offering solar PV solutions.
“Finally, we encourage all end users and installers to ensure that systems are compliant with individual municipal requirements, and, additionally, to ensure that systems are duly maintained during their operational lifetime,” a Sapvia spokesperson said.
Eskom recently also cautioned residents to safely warm their homes this winter.
Eskom’s manager for Corporate Hygiene and Safety, Miranda Moahlodi, said: “Eskom comes across many electricity-related incidents related to heating in winter, and as such we would like to equip you with some tips on how to safely heat your homes this winter.
“We urge communities to really take care when heating their homes.
Always switch off electric heaters when load shedding starts – the power may return late at night when everyone is sleeping, and the heater may overheat during the night. Unfortunately, we have seen very serious incidents due to people forgetting to switch off ovens, stoves, heaters and kettles when load shedding starts,” said Moahlodi.
Meanwhile Electricity Minister Kgosientso Ramokgopa has promised that the end of load shedding in the country may be on the horizon sooner rather than later.
Speaking during a media briefing in Pretoria on Sunday, he said that through the collaborative efforts of more than 100 private sector players, they had managed to make huge strides in addressing the challenges experienced by the sector.
“In some instances, we have had the opportunity to run the open cycle gas turbines, and then there would be no load shedding, but we will do it the right way so that when we come out of this, we are confident that we have resolved load shedding. I said when I started this assignment that we will resolve this load shedding, and I think that we will resolve it much quicker than we had anticipated. I don’t give dates, I give the megawatts; it’s for you to determine when the date is, but I think it is on the horizon,” Ramokgopa added.
*Additional reporting by Goitsemang Matlhabe