Owners of small commercial and embedded generation, such as roof-top solar power systems, in South Africa now have clearer guidelines for connecting to the distribution grid.

The South African Bureau of Standards has approved new standards developed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and written with help from PEC Engineers (Pty) Ltd, a subsidiary of POWER Engineers Incorporated (POWER).

Embedded power generation installations, also known as distributed energy resources or DER, are a growing subject of discussion worldwide. The energy landscape is shifting from centralized power plants to decentralized generation, including residential and industrial generating sources.

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When these systems are connected to the larger grid they can make it unstable, cause outages, or pose safety risks to people. These systems previously weren’t regulated by a national standard in South Africa. After stakeholders indicated a lack of clearly defined rules to follow for DER, South Africa’s CSIR called on POWER to help develop the standards and guidelines.

CSIR undertakes research and technology innovation to improve the quality of life of South Africans. POWER also developed training materials and is assisting with training to ensure the dissemination of the new standards to the South African market.

The completed standards and guidelines apply to commercial installations up to 1 MW, as well as support the safe operation of DERs for consumers, installers and grid operators. The standards also address the need for DERs to support grid reliability in case of events such as storms or accidents that cause unplanned outages.

The final document includes a wiring code, utility interface and implementation guidelines that reflect global best practices. The standard is titled: “SANS 10142-1-2, The wiring of premises – Part 1-2: Additional special requirements for low voltage small scale embedded generator installations connected in parallel to the normal electrical supply.”

POWER brings to the project extensive experience in DERs and in assessing existing standards, specifications and work practices, comparing those with industry standards and developing new and updated standards.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) helped fund the project.