Two years after the approval of the first local ordinance making it obligatory to install solar thermal systems in Rosario, Argentina, the regulation entered into force in September 2012 (see the attached document). Since then, all public buildings in the city have had to cover at least 50 % of their hot water consumption through solar energy. Ordinance 8784 could set an example for other cities in Argentina. Red de Ciudades Solares (Solar City Network) is lobbying to adopt the measure in several other municipalities and has even proposed a nationwide regulation.
“Slowly but steadily” seems to be the motto of the Argentinian Red de Ciudades Solares when it comes to promoting the introduction of solar energy in Argentina. The Solar City Network was created in 2009, inspired by the initiative Cidades Solares (Solar Cities) in neighbouring Brazil and Mesa Solar in Uruguay. The Argentinian organisation includes volunteers from eight participating cities: Zárate, Campana, Gálvez, Rosario, Santa Fe, Paraná, Mendoza and Venado Tuerto.
One of its first achievements was to implement the first municipal ordinance together with environmental organisation Taller Ecologista in the Rosario municipality. The regulation applies to both new buildings and major renovations of sanitary water heating systems. It is obligatory for municipal buildings, as well as provincial and national buildings, as long as they are within the city borders of Rosario - among them schools, public swimming pools, hospitals and even social housing areas.
Although the ordinance was approved 2 years ago, the regulation specifying the technical details was not finalised until September 2012. This meant that 2013 was to be the year when the results of solar obligation would start to be visible, as for example in the solar thermal system of the new sports centre, which will open its doors in September 2013.
According to Fernando Páez Yáñez, who is in charge of the Solar City Network and Professor at the National University of Cuyo, “this has been the first solar obligation in the country, opening the door for other municipalities to follow”. The professor says that other obligations are being approved thanks to their initiative. In May 2012, Santa Fe approved an ordinance mandating solar thermal systems in all nurseries across town. Since the beginning of the year, this law has led to the installation of solar water heaters in 34 refurbished nurseries in Santa Fe.
Together with these regulations, some new laws are being set up throughout the country. For example, Law 4024 from November 2011, gives a general outline of how to subsidise the installation of solar thermal and solar electric systems in the city of Buenos Aires. The law’s exact specifications, however, still need to be worked out. Also some other private initiatives followed, such as the Proyecto 100, which promoted the installation of 100 solar water systems in the La Perla district of Greater Buenos Aires together with company Grupo Solar. The project has shown some effect on the market.
Argentina’s solar thermal market, however, remains largely untapped. The lack of a national obligation combined with the financial crisis and the small number of coordinated initiatives means the market will keep making slow progress in the near future. “There are no official figures on the installed solar thermal capacity across the country, but we do not expect a huge amount of newly installed capacity this year,” says Páez. According to the professor, the first step will be to create solar obligations in several new cities. “We are developing new ordinance drafts adapted to the irradiation conditions of several other cities in the country - mainly those belonging to the Solar City initiative. Hopefully, several others municipalities will soon follow Rosario’s example,” concludes Páez.
Alejandro Diego Rosell is a freelance journalist and consultant specialised in renewable energies and based in Madrid, Spain.