Solar thermal installation in Soweto: Eskom's Renewable Energy Portfolio Manager, Cedric Worthmann, said that, “Our aim is to encourage as many South Africans as possible to move away from using electric geysers and replace them with solar heated systems instead”.
Eskom, South Africa's state-owned power utility, announced on 13 January 2010 that it will increase the rebates in its solar water heater programme (see the attached announcement). From that day forward, it has granted a cash rebate of up to South African Rand (ZAR) 12,500 to residential home owners or tenants, depending on the size of the system. So far, the maximum incentive amount per system had been capped at ZAR 5,000. This reduces payback periods for installation costs to less than five years
The increase is a result of the Department of Minerals and Energy´s call for the installation of SWHs to reduce the country's electricity consumption of fossil fuels. As Eskom’s Energy Efficiency Manager, Andrew Etzinger, explained in an interview to www.engineeringnews.co.za: "At this stage, we see that the programme is necessary. And so we believe that it will continue as part of the government aspiration of a million solar water heaters over the next five years.” The new frame conditions aim at almost doubling the incentives, which means that the average rebate for a solar system would now be ZAR 6,000, up from 3,000.
The main advantage of an increased rebate is the better affordability of solar systems for consumers. The application process still foresees to have the customer pay the full cost of the system upfront and claim the rebate thereafter. Once a complete rebate application is sent to Eskom, the grant will be transferred to the costumer's account within eight weeks of the paperwork being received. The new rebate will be evaluated on a yearly basis and eventually decreased based on market development and energy prices.
“This represents a turnaround in the solar water heating industry and can only have a positive effect. We look forward to an excellent year ahead,” Dylan Tudor-Jones, Chairman of the Sustainable Energy Society’s Solar Water Heating Division and Managing Member of Solar Heat Exchangers, commented in a press release on the 14th of January.
The power utility estimates that there are currently about 4.2 million electric geysers installed throughout the country, but only 76,873 solar water heating systems. The former rebate programme accounted for more than 2,300 SWH installations over the last couple of years. Since its implementation, South Africa saw an increase in the number of suppliers and the quality of SWH systems.
Text was written by communication specialist Hanna Schober based in South Africa.