Western Cape Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  13 Jul 2011

POWER SUPPLY: Why The Solar Heater Plan Is Failing


Recent Western Cape Business News

IT has become clear that the campaign to extend the use of solar water heaters has failed and that a new approach is now necessary, says the Cape Chamber of Commerce.

In the last two years only 115 000 solar geysers have been installed against a government target of one million and a market potential or three or four times that much.

The main reason for the failure, says the chamber, is that demand side management has not been taken up as a national priority. Instead the promotion of solar heaters was left to Eskom and its subsidy scheme as well as the municipalities.

Peter Haylett, chairman of the chamber’s energy portfolio committee, says every solar geyser has the potential to save householders about R300 a month or R3 600 a year and this will be revenue lost to the municipalities and Eskom. A hundred thousand solar water heaters in a city like Cape Town would cost the municipality about R360 million a year and the one million in the government target would cost the electricity suppliers R3.6 billion a year.

In other words, the people who have the most to lose from a successful campaign are asked to run it. One can understand their lack of enthusiasm,” he says.

Eskom’s subsidy scheme has not been successful and municipalities have opted for very limited plans for solar water heaters on all new buildings as this protects their present revenue flows.

He points out that the national energy plan has said that demand side management barely scratched the surface of potential savings “but instead of dealing with ways to promote energy saving it argued for a massive and costly increase in generating capacity.”

He says a national plan to put a solar water heater on every roof is now necessary and Eskom and the municipalities should have nothing to do with it. “Not only will this save electricity and the cost of new generating capacity but it will promote a worthwhile job-creating industry.” Meanwhile statistics produced by Eskom’s Demand Side Management (DSM) programme show that industry in South Africa is significantly lagging the residential sector in terms of electricity savings achieved to date.

Integrated Demand Management (IDM) senior GM Andrew Etzinger says through DSM initiatives, South Africans saved 355 MW to March 2011. Of these savings, 204 MW were achieved in the residential sector, through programmes such as the compact fluorescent lamp distribution programme and the solar water heater rebate programme, which were instituted in the wake of South Africa’s 2008 power crisis.

By contrast, the industrial sector achieved savings of only 113 MW, with 70 MW of that achieved during the utility’s 2010/11 financial year.

Other savings were achieved by electricity redistributors (33 MW), the agricultural sector (4 MW), and the commercial sector (2 MW).

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