280410 The 7000-unit solar water heater project launched by President Zuma, the first mass project aimed at low-income households as the government rolls out its campaign to have 1-million solar geysers installed by 2014.This is the first community in Winterveldt to benefit from this compain.photo by Simphiwe Mbokazi 453

Cape Town - Eskom is in talks with the insurance industry in a bid to get the industry to replace clients’ broken hot water geysers with solar water geysers.

If successful, the move could see the uptake of solar water geysers increase substantially, as the insurance industry replaces on average 200 000 to 300 000 broken electric geysers every year.

The insurance industry would then make use of Eskom’s rebate programme for solar water geysers, launched in 2008, which aims to install one million partially subsidised solar water geysers in the country by the end of 2013.

Andrew Etzinger, senior manager at Eskom, said to date they had installed 360 000 solar water heaters. This fell far short of the utility’s goal.

“The geyser replacement uptake of solar is not on a level we want. There are a lot of issues to be sorted out with the insurance industry, but we are in the final stages of discussion,” Etzinger said.

The cost of the solar heaters varied according to size and quality, but on average was about R20 000. Eskom’s rebate, which also varied, was on average about R6 000. This meant householders who wanted to replace their electric geysers still had to pay a large sum of money. It was one of the reasons for the slow uptake of the Eskom rebate system.

“Only 20 percent of solar water geysers using the rebate have gone to roofs on homes which previously had electric geysers. About 80 percent have gone to homes which didn’t have any geysers, but which did have electricity, so the householders would use kettles or stoves to heat water. There is some electricity saving by installing solar on these houses, but not nearly as much as on the roofs which have electric geysers. About 40 percent of household electricity consumption is hot water geysers,” Etzinger said.

An important change had been introduced in July when the government stated that at least 70 percent of materials for both the solar water collector and the tank had to be locally made.

“The current situation is that nearly all solar water heaters are imported in part. This new requirement for 70 percent local content may slow down the rate of installation initially, but it will give stimulus to the local manufacturing industry. Local content has become a key component.”

Etzinger said Eskom was also planning to change the nature of the contracts with solar heater manufacturers. Currently they operated with one-year contracts, but the utility was hoping to change this to two- or three-year contracts in order to give the industry more certainty.

He said the pattern of installation using Eskom’s rebate programme was not evenly distributed. “About 90 percent of installations have been in four provinces - Gauteng, the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. We want to see more equal distribution.”

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Cape Times