Cape Town vs Pretoria vs Durban — Best electricity feed-in tariffs

Three of South Africa’s biggest metropolitan municipalities allow their residents to get credit for excess electricity fed back into the grid, but one’s approach is substantially better than the others.

The cities of Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Tshwane are among numerous municipalities which have expressed their intent to reduce reliance on Eskom’s electricity supply.

One way this can be achieved is to use distributed small-scale embedded generation (SSEG), mainly in the form of home and business rooftop solar installations, to diversify electricity supply.

Households can play an important role in this regard, as their peak solar output during the middle of the day can often be higher than their demand — especially if residents don’t work from home.

The Western Cape has been the most progressive province in adopting feed-in tariffs, with at least 20 municipalities giving residential customers credit for electricity fed back into the grid.

The biggest municipality in the province — the City of Cape Town — is the only metro that pays users back in cash if the value of their feed-in power exceeds the cost of their consumption.

Its flat feed-in tariff for Home User households is R1.01, not including a 29-cent incentive the city will provide until the end of June 2025.

It is also working on a time-of-use tariff (ToU) that will credit users at a rate equivalent to their consumption cost, similar to what Eskom does with its Homeflex tariff.

In its latest electricity tariffs schedule, the city said this option would become available once back-end systems have been put in place and tested for accuracy.

On this tariff plan, customers will get between 69 cents and R5.82 back per kWh of electricity, depending on the time of day and season.

Durban’s big catch

Residents of another highly-populated coastal city in South Africa, Durban, can also sell their excess electricity back to the grid.

At first glance, the City of Ethekwini, which governs Durban and its surrounding areas, has the best feed-in rate of the major metros.

It gives users R1.44 for every kWh of supplied electricity, compared with the R1.29 that the City of Cape Town offers.

However, Ethekwini charges a monthly ancillary fee of R126.86 for every kVA of power output from your inverter.

kVA is used to show the apparent power or real power plus reactive power of an inverter or generator, while kW reflects only the real power.

For a household in Durban with a 5kW inverter and 5.5kVA, the monthly charge will be about R698.

To make up the cost of this charge, the household will have to feed in at least 485kWh of energy in a month.

Durban skyline. Editorial credit: Kendal Swart / Shutterstock.com

The City of Cape Town only charges a R5.66 monthly administration fee for Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI).

Cape Town households would only have to feed in 5kWh of electricity before breaking even on this monthly fee, making it feed-in far more attractive than in Ethekwini.

The city is also testing more affordable bidirectional meters, which could reduce the price of this hardware from the current R11,325 to around R6,000 for residential users.

As it stands, a household in Cape Town would have to export about 8,879kWh before making up the cost of the bidirectional meter. At R3,000, that breakeven export number drops to 2,325kWh.

Gauteng residents getting the short end of the stick

The City of Tshwane is the last of the big metros offering a feed-in tariff, but its rate is lower than CoCT and Ethekwini’s, at R0.81.

With this tariff, buying a bidirectional meter costing over R10,000 would not make sense.

We asked the metro why this was the case and whether it was working on a revised tariff, but it did not respond by the time of publication.

The City of Joburg previously announced that it was working on implementing a feed-in tariff in July 2023. This has still not been put into effect.

The table below compares the electricity feed-in tariffs offered by Eskom and the three biggest municipalities in South Africa that support the capability.

Feed-in tariffs compared
Metro Tariff option Feed-in tariff per kWh (including VAT) Additional monthly charges Credit only/Cash payout
City of Cape Town Home User R1.29 R5.66 AMI Administration fee Cash payout if credits exceed consumption
Home User Time-of-use High Demand Season — Off-peak:
R0.82
High Demand Season — Standard:
R1.65
High Demand Season — Peak:
R5.82
Low Demand Season — Off-peak:
R0.69
Low Demand Season —  Standard:
R1.18
Low Demand Season — Peak:
R1.70
City of Ethwekwini Residential Scale 3 & 4 R1.44  R127 per kVA inverter capacity Credit only
City of Tshwane Residential R0.81 No additional charge Credit only
Eskom Direct Homeflex 4 (Time-of-use) High Demand Season — Off-peak:
R1.04
R171 network capacity charge Credit only
High Demand Season — Standard:
R1.90
Credit only
High Demand Season — Peak:
R6.24
Credit only
Low Demand Season — Off-peak:
R0.90
Credit only
Low Demand Season — Standard:
R1.41 
Credit only
Low Demand Season — Peak:
R2.04 
Credit only

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Cape Town vs Pretoria vs Durban — Best electricity feed-in tariffs