There were significant growth opportunities for local suppliers and manufacturers in South Africa’s solar water heater (SWH) sector, as the country aims to install one-million units by 2014/15, Eskom MD for resources and strategy Dr Steve Lennon said on Wednesday.
“If we can install hundreds of thousands of units in a year, this could be a viable and promising industry. Eskom and government just need to get everything lined up to further strengthen areas to grow the sector,” he told Engineering News Online at a Department of Energy roundtable on the sidelines of the seventeenth Conference of the Parties, or COP 17, meeting in Durban.
Low-pressure SWH manufacturers in South Africa have been taking strain as they are challenged by regulatory constraints, costs and cheap imports.
Local SWH manufacturers say they struggle to survive under the Eskom rebate programme, and that it has attracted new entrants to the market, mainly importers, without stimulating demand in the same way.
Lennon said it would be a “good point” to review the rebate system. He conceded that the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) process to test SWHs could be “onerous”, but stressed that it was important.
A manufacturer can pay between R70 000 and R100 000 to have a system (SWH and the geyser) tested by the SABS to qualify for the current Eskom rebate programme, and should any components to a system change, the entire system had to be tested and not just the added component/s.
“I still believe the significant opportunities to create a sustainable sector and to create jobs, such as the uptake we have seen of plumbers and electricians, but again that must be sustained,” Lennon concluded.