Beware solar power corruption in South Africa

The surge in solar power adoption in South Africa has attracted individuals seeking to exploit the growing market, Solarise Africa co-founder and COO Sakkie van Wijk has said.

“Being part of the alternative energy industry, our personal networks often approach us to review personal projects and provide guidance,” Van Wijk explained.

“Sadly, we are uncovering more and more questionable activities.”

Van Wijk said they are seeing dubious transactions with multiple layers of supply chains that add markups and kickbacks, leading to inflated project costs and compromised installations.

“We’ve even found large deals that were concluded with mere handshakes and absolutely no paperwork — no scope, so service level agreements, no system specifications — this is typically at least double the actual cost,” he said.

“We urge everyone in the process of adopting solar to scrutinise every aspect of the deal.”

Solarise Africa said the surge in solar power uptake in the country has even been likened to a gold rush.

South African Photovoltaic Industry Association spokesperson Frank Spencer estimated that the number of installations has quadrupled in some places, with high demand noted in Cape Town, Gauteng, and KwaZulu-Natal.

However, Van Wijk said ensuring this solar boom is not accompanied by corruption is critical.

At a minimum, installation must comply with all legal requirements.

“All solar projects must obtain authorisation from the appropriate authorities, such as municipalities, for grid connection,” he said.

“Municipalities do not charge a fee for these approvals, but still we’ve come across exorbitant ‘authorisation fees’ that are fake and misleading,” he said.

For large-scale solar installations, there are also specific building plan requirements that must be met.

These encompass various aspects, including the positioning and elevation of solar panels.

In the case of elevated or ground-mounted systems, careful consideration should be given to the height of the panels above the natural or finished ground level.

He said adhering to these building plan requirements is crucial to guarantee the safety, efficiency, and long-term sustainability of large-scale projects.

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Beware solar power corruption in South Africa